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Nimona: A Song of Change

by J. Nagle

What if we’ve always been wrong?

Nimona was, of the Disney-Fox merger, one of the names that Blue Sky Studios fans were sad to see go in 2021 upon the studio’s closure. However, hope was restored in 2022 when Annapurna Pictures and Netflix acquired the film, with a projected 2023 release date. With these roadblocks in mind among others—such as the film’s original release date setting it up to compete with Sonic—those looking forward to the film were pleasantly surprised on June 30th, 2023 when they were treated to an adaptation that provided a faithful as well as captivating story within its world.

The visual style of Nimona pops in a way different from most animated films, a result of the experimentation Blue Sky Studios found themselves making with their latter films such as The Peanuts Movie and Ferdinand. The film utilizes a mixture of 3D animation with traditional 2D elements, which can be attributed to its stylistic adaptation of graphic novel flair. However, it’s important to note that this technique was a bit ahead of its time in development. DreamWorks Animation Studios experimented with the same concept in 2022 starting with The Bad Guys, elaborating on this concept later the same year with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Two years earlier, Nimona would find itself incorporating some of the same elements during its production that made those same films so captivating to look at.

Part of what makes Nimona so daring is its central plot being so reliant on the strained relationship between Ballister and Ambrosius, two characters whose romance has seldom been shown onscreen in mainstream animated cinema, a romance definitely not to the degree of which it’s integral to the story. In addition, Nimona’s own journey alongside Ballister shows many metaphors for the fluidity of gender and how those who express themselves in an untraditional way can be cast out of society. It’s a great thing Annapurna decided to revive the film, because it delivers some very clear and heartfelt messages that many people in the LGBTQ+ community can relate to and may still need.

Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed provide inspiring and emotional performances as the title characters and Ballister Boldheart respectively, and the rest of the cast—some names surprising—provide an outstanding job on their vocal work as well. Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys fame voices Ambrosius Goldenloin, a respected knight and Ballister’s love interest, and RuPaul of RuPaul’s Drag Race provides the voice of Nate Knight. Additionally, Nimona creator ND Stevenson has a vocal cameo as Kwispy the Dragon in an in-universe cereal advertisement.

Nimona is now streaming on Netflix.