Updated: Aug 27, 2021
Like Pixar’s beloved Toy Story franchise, “New World Order” delights the screen with toy sentience, only the stuffed animal in this film can also sing and dance. “New World Order” is a segment of Alan: The Musical, an animated series that shares the story of one stuffed lion named Alan who wants to move as humans do. Christina, his owner who by happenstance is familiar with computer engineering and robotics, transforms Alan from inanimate stuffed toy to full-fledged cyborg.
The 2D animation by Samudra Kajal Saikia with direction from Susan Lim and Christina Teenz Tan is the first element to stand out. The dark trippy montage-style sucks the audience into a world that is familiar and imaginative. There is a dramatic, dark tone to all of it with backgrounds of blues, shadows and machinery that juxtapose lighter moments between Alan and his owner dancing together.
There are some moments that could be read as alarming - for instance, when Alan dances with an army of other stuffed toys or performs for them. The lyrics hint that Alan’s transformation will likely be the future for all companions (i.e. stuffed toys). That could be unsettling to certain viewers. But I think for most, the idea of getting coffee with their childhood best friend sounds pretty great. Even though there are some dark undertones to the animation style, it feels more Toy Story less I, Robot...at least so far in this episode. Be nice to your stuffed toys just in case.
Matthieu Eymard passionately sings as Alan through Alan’s rebirth. Eymard carries the story through his rock-infused tune. There is a sense of positivity, power, and potential for Alan’s future. He sings and celebrates how he can run and dance like people, how he has gained respectability. It’s joyful and charming. The cathartic music is thanks to a beautiful composition by Joi Barua, lyrics by Susan Lim, arrangement by Matthieu Eymard and Manu Martin, and musicians Frederic Riviere, Jerome Buigues, and Michele Drees.
With all the joy for Alan, there is an interesting undertone that Alan needs respectability and purpose much like we as humans do. It’s an element that makes audiences reflect on their own values, that in the human condition there is a need to be admired and live life meaningfully. Alan also mentions that he sees the world as rose-colored. It makes one wonder if that rose hue will soon change color. Will Alan start to see the faults in being human as he goes along?
“New World Order” sparks imagination, and has you reflect on what it is to be human. It will be interesting to see where this particular story goes as there is already so much potential. It’s special when a piece of material can bring you back to your childhood and also ignite your adult sci-fi curiosity. The high quality of the music and production also makes it clear that Samudra Kajal Saika and the team are the right folks to tell this emotional journey.