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Watch: the power and beauty of hand-drawn animation, in less than 2 minutes

Boy and the World is a gorgeous Brazilian film well worth seeing.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

In the United States, most animated films are made on computers, by industry heavyweights like Pixar and Dreamworks. These films can be beautiful — stunningly gorgeous, even — but there's a certain sameness to them, a plasticine quality that sands off all the rough edges. Perfection can be lovely to watch, but it isn't very human.

To really get a sense of humanity, your best bet is still traditional hand-drawn animation. And for that, the country's best distributor is GKIDS, which imports the world's finest two-dimensional output. The company has imported films from all over the world, including Ireland (the glorious Song of the Sea), France (the charming bear-and-mouse buddy comedy Ernest and Celestine), and Japan (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya).

The films GKIDS picks up are often really good, and even the ones that don't quite land are still worth watching for their personality. The directors who made these films and their teams — which are much, much smaller than the ones behind CG films — have labored, painstakingly, over every line and every sketch and every color that becomes part of the finished product. At their best, that makes the films come alive. Even at their worst, it at least makes them interesting.

Now the company is introducing its latest US release, Boy and the World, from Brazil. It's about a young boy who travels from his rural village to the big city, where he gets wrapped up in a clash between the traditional and the modern, the handcrafted and the mechanized. It's almost a neat metaphor for GKIDS's under-the-radar but rewarding releases.

Directed by Alê Abreu, Boy and the World functions almost as a travelogue of a fictional place. You can see above how Abreu highlights the conflict at the film's heart, with beautiful images and a graceful, melancholy soul. The film opens Friday, December 11, in New York and Los Angeles, and will expand in the weeks to come.

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