Orion and The Dark: An Animated Tale for Every Age

Orion and The Dark is an animated film directed by Sean Charmatz. The screenplay for the film was written by Charlie Kaufman, and was based on the children's book of the same name by writer Emma Yarlett

by Sededin Dedovic
Orion and The Dark: An Animated Tale for Every Age
© DreamWorksTV World / Youtube channel

The animated film "Orion and The Dark," directed by Sean Charmatz, was one of the most-watched films in February on Netflix. The screenplay for the film was written by Charlie Kaufman and was based on the children's book of the same name by author Emma Yarlett.

If you have a preschool-aged child and haven't discovered Emma Jarlet's picture book "Orion and the Dark" yet, make sure to correct that mistake. The story of the book follows a boy named Orion who is afraid of various things like dogs, girls, the sea, his grandmother, in short, everything and anything, but most of all, the dark.

When the just-animated darkness visits him and takes him on an adventure, Orion will confront his other fears, all while having a great time. The picture book has about forty pages with very little and very rarely written text, so the question arises about the meaningfulness of adapting such material into a feature-length animated film, which companies like DreamWorks and Netflix have done, serving it to us in early February.

Another question is how well such an adaptation can be done by an inexperienced director like Sean Charmatz, who has only worked on storyboards for feature films, having independently directed only one web series and a few shorts.

Perhaps hope can be placed in Charlie Kaufman as the screenwriter, further emphasized by the fact that the author of genius works such as "Being John Malkovich" (Spike Jonze, 1999), "Adaptation" (Jonze, 2002), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (Michel Gondry, 2004), and "Synecdoche, New York" (2008) has experience with animation.

As a writer, he signed the series of short episodes "Moral Orel," and as a writer and director, the feature-length animated film for adults "Anomalisa" (2015). Animated films have the power to appeal to all people, regardless of age.

"Orion and the Dark" is precisely such a film that can attract various generations. Some have already called the film a possible remedy for fear of the dark. The animation is excellent, the story unfolds clearly, but what is most striking is the message that "Orion and the Dark" carries with it.

Of course, the adaptation had to be thorough, and it was. This is clear from the very beginning and the significantly altered list of Orion's phobias, where embarrassment and school bullies have a special place, as well as the special attention given to creating the introductory story in which our hero hesitates whether or not to go on a school trip to the planetarium and whether or not to approach a girl from his class.

Orion and The Dark© DreamWorksTV World / Youtube channel

The book "Orion and the Dark" is intended for ages three to five, while the animated film has received a PG rating (parental guidance suggested), which is not surprising at all given Kaufman's involvement in the screenplay.

The boy Orion (voiced by Jacob Trembley) in the film is a teenager at the age of eleven, and he has various types of "irrational fears." And he (like most kids?) is most afraid of the dark. That evening, after his mom (voiced by Carla Gugino) and dad (voiced by Matt Dellapina) tuck him in bed, Orion will be visited by none other than the Dark itself (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser).

Thus, the unusual duo embarks on a nighttime adventure where they meet other "night creatures" like Sleepiness (voiced by Natasha Demetriou), Dreams (voiced by Angela Bassett), Insomnia (voiced by Nat Faxon), Silence (voiced by Aparna Nancherla), and Unexplained Sounds (voiced by Golde Rosheuvel).

To ensure that Orion overcomes all his fears, the Dark, along with the other "night creatures," will do everything in their power to help the boy. Considering the age range of the original material intended as bedtime stories, Kaufman constructs a screenplay in a similar vein, where adult Orion (voiced by Colin Hanks) narrates his childhood to his daughter Hypatia (voiced by Mia Akemi Brown), recounting his encounter with the Dark.

The concept of narration itself seems very ambitious and interesting, while the direction is signed by a debutant, digital puppeteer Sean Sharmatz. The animation is smooth; the backstories of the characters are mostly detailed just enough; the voice acting is supported with enough inspiration, and the soundtrack is playful, from quotes by Hans Zimmer to the integral transmission of songs by Tame Impala.

The result is an animated film that, unlike the book, is not quite for very young children, as it deals with fairly abstract concepts, but rather for slightly older ones, who are no longer afraid of the dark but whose imagination still works without problems.

And if you're still watching it with kids, be prepared for a bunch of questions.