Saturday, March 02, 2024

NYICFF ’24: Magic Candies (short)

These candies are actually good for you. We do not know whether they are sugar-free, but they do wonders for the heart. It turns out they are the perfect pick-me-up for a sad little boy in Japanese anime filmmaker Daisuke Nishio’s animated short film adaptation of Heena Baek’s Korean children’s book, Magic Candies, which screens today as part of the 2024 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Dong-dong is too shy to make any new friends on his own, so he tries to convince himself he is happy playing by himself. A wise old shopkeeper knows better, so he sells the young boy a bag of magic candies. Dong-dong has no idea what to expect, but when he starts munching on them, he discovers each has an unexpected power. Soon he has a conversation with his beloved pet dog, listens to his over-worked single-father’s thoughts, and receives a much-needed message from his dearly departed grandmother.

Somehow, the candies give him exactly what he needs. It is all really quite beautiful. Baek’s book may have been written for a kindergarten audience, but its deceptively simple and deeply wise story could make it a popular children’s-book-for-adults. Nishio renders it into 3D animation with warmth and grace, retaining the spirit of its fantasy and the look of the original illustrations.

In a way, this is kind of an anti-O. Henry tale, with each candy successfully treating one of Dong-dong’s troubles, with the gentlest of ironies. It is hugely endearing and distinctively animated. At a twenty-one-minute running time, it is long enough to build up to a meaningful pay-off, but short enough to be easily digested by young viewers. When you think about it, it is about as long as many of the vintage 1950s anthology TV series, but it is more satisfying than all but the best of them.

This is some serious heartwarming stuff. Highly recommended for fans of animation and family-friendly fables,
Magic Candies screens on a double-bill with The Klutzy Witch this afternoon (3/2) and March 16th, as part of this year’s NYICFF.