“I promise I won’t disappear. Not while there are awkward children who won’t go to bed.”
Nocturna is the story of Tim (Lloyd F. Booth Shankley, Flying Heroes), a young orphan whose greatest joy in life is seeing the stars at night, in particular his favorite star, Adhara. Imagine his horror when one night while searching for her solace, he finds instead she has disappeared. It is this discovery which leads him into a world he’s never known, one which exists right alongside our own. The world of Nocturna, or the nighttime. It’s not just the stars, though; we soon learn all the lights are extinguishing. So we must find what’s causing the lights to fade. While we attempt to discover what’s happening to the lights, we’re also treated to a fantastical explanation for what happens while we sleep. Why do we wake up with sleep in our eyes? Why is our hair always completely jacked up upon waking? It’s really a fun bit of exploration, touching upon things about which every child has surely thought.
Guiding Tim along his journey is Cat Herder (Robert Paterson, Red Lights), the person responsible for — you guessed it — herding all of the cats. But these are no ordinary cats as their meows are responsible for helping children stay asleep through the night. Nocturna features some very deft storytelling, as the plot weaves in elements certain to keep audiences of all ages guessing. At its heart it’s the story of facing your fears and it’s really told in a charming way. One of the reasons why I find the story engrossing is undoubtedly the visuals, as this is a very stylized kind of animation, almost to the point of being hyper-stylized. There are definite exaggerated fantasy elements to everything we see, and it adds a level to the storytelling which is sure to engage the target audience, just as it did for me.
The audio and video specifications share something in common which isn’t often replicated, and that is a core of simplicity. For starters, the audio, a Dolby 5.1 track, has a lovely soundtrack which at its base is a series of simple chords played to sound as though they are being almost plucked, an attempt to mimic a child’s attempts when sitting down to play music. The soundscape is very deliberately created, with the soundtrack only one building block in what is a very effective space. The video, a 1.78:1 transfer, has a lovely glow within just about every scene. The palate is where we find that simplicity, as most things feature a predominance of either green or yellow. Later on, as the movie progresses, blue is also added as a keynote color. Though this palette may seem simple, it really is very lovely. That glow to many elements wanes as the story progresses, mimicking the loss of the light in a subtle yet compelling way.
The special features are threefold: two featurettes about the film itself (a making of and the art) and the film’s trailer.
It’s easy to recommend Nocturna, as it’s a kids’ film walking the line between fantasy and nightmare very well. The underlying message about facing your fears through learning what those fears truly are is one youngsters would do well to learn.