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Eduardo is a Mexican-American animated science-fiction surrealistic mystery romantic dramedy television film directed by the late Kenneth Dumont, who committed suicide by hanging mid-production, and French Donovan, who took over as director for the rest of production in an attempt to finalize the film's development. The CC (Cartoon Comedy) and Animixicano Producciones, a relatively small and independent Mexican animation film studio, are the studios behind its production. The film recounts the coming-of-age of titular character Eduardo, a friendless, selective mute in his freshman year of high school with a propensity to travel alternate dimensions in his sleep, who befriends, and eventually becomes infatuated with, a long-time classmate, Leon. Eduardo and Leon begin explore their friendship and feelings for each other, as well as the emotional turbulence that comes with being closeted high-schoolers. At the same, Mick Johnson, the fictional 42nd President of the United States passes away, and his funeral proceedings take place in their city, his hometown. Sensing a spiritual connection between him and the President after viewing a local broadcast of said funeral proceedings, Eduardo embarks on a journey of perception to uncover this metaphysical link between the two.

Originally visualized as a 17-episode miniseries set for a June 26, 2020 airing, it was retooled halfway through production as a 3-hour television film that was moved down a year to a June 28, 2019 premiere date, to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The film has been universally praised by critics, who have commended it for its originality and exploration of sensitive subject matter other mainstream animated films have typically avoided, like selective mutism, homosexuality, social anxiety, loneliness, the limitations of true love, spiritual connections, and overprotective parenting.

Plot

The movie opens with the silhouette of a wheelchair-bound elderly man atop a mountain, apparently contemplating the sunset. Another silhouette, this time belonging to an older, but more spritely man, walks up to him and announces his arrival, causing the wheelchair-ridden man to look back at him before holding the other man's hand. They then both stare at the sunset together, still with interlocked hands, until the ringing of a phone interrupts their moment.

It then transitions to the titular character, 16-year old high schooler Eduardo (Jake T. Austin), aroused from his sleep by his overbearing mother, Narcissa (Marina de Tavira), for school. Visibly confused, Eduardo begins his usual morning routine and attends school, where it is shown that he's friendless and awkward as a result of his social anxiety. Everything seems commonplace until he notices that kids and school start rioting without facing punishment from the teachers. His face then brightens with realization at the fact that he's currently in an alternate dimension where school's in a constant state of tumult and awakens from his sleep, where he must report for his first day of high school in the conscious world.

At his new high school, Eduardo struggles integrating himself with his schoolmates as a result of his selective mutism and finds most of his teachers unremarkable and unassuming. However, when he attends his Physical Wellbeing class, he's forced by the brash Mrs. Zimmerman to partner up for an icebreaker activity, which he dreads. After not doing much of an effort to pair up with someone else, the teacher partners him up with transfer student Leon to mitigate the embarrassment of being by himself. Initially, the two do not exchange words, which makes for an awkward air, but eventually their discomfort with each other subsides and their discussion improves, as Eduardo learns that he shared the same Science period as Leon back in the 8th grade. Before they can truly befriend each other, the bell rings, signaling dismissal; following this incident, Eduardo does not have any further contact with Leon for weeks, but occasionally discovers Leon admiring him from afar. He also has regular appointments with the school therapist, Meredith, who strives to comfort him with speaking rather than exerting him to.

After his latest travelings to a new dimension in his sleep proves upsetting, Eduardo feels more overwhelmed than he's accustomed to at school, but finds that he has no friends or teachers to confide in. In Physical Wellbeing, the teacher hilariously professes that she forgot to organize that day's lesson plan, so instead of their typical bodyweight circuts she announces that they'll spectate the high school track athletes during practice at the bleachers. Outside, Eduardo debates his position at the bleachers but chooses to sit next to Leon, where he simply exchanges pleasantries with him. During a cold draft, Eduardo tries to rub his hand on his thigh for warmth and accidentally caresses Leon's thigh, who reacts with a wan expression before leaving him to sit with someone else, much to Eduardo's frantic explanation. The encounter also leaves him confused due to the unexplained satisfaction he got from touching Leon's thigh.

At home, Eduardo gets goaded by his younger sister, Solana (Mia Xitlali), in a playful manner, and annoyed by Narcissa, who watches him at work from wireless security cameras installed in their home. His sister then moves on from teasing to begging as she pleads with him to attend her dance competition because their mother and father won't be able to attend due to work. Eduardo sardonically agrees to, but retorts how his nonexistent social life basically forces him to go, which frustrates his sister, who yells back that she never insinuated anything about his social life. The two go at it for a while, but end up reconciling in time for the family to settle down after dinner to watch some television together. The superhero film they choose to watch gets intercepted by a breaking news broadcast reporting that the 42nd President of the United States, Mick Johnson, has died at the age of 96 from takotsubo cardiomyopathy, colloquially referred to as broken-heart syndrome, due to the death of his 95-year old wife Anastasia Johnson a year earlier. Eduardo senses an inexplicable connection towards the recently-deceased President during the broadcast, which states in addition that funeral proceedings will be set in Eduardo's town (as the president too had grown up there), but chalks it up to being emotionally overwhelmed as he quietly sobs to himself.

The next day, during Physical Wellbeing, Eduardo spots Leon admiring him from a distance yet again and feels uncomfortable. Leon then approaches him and decides to apologize for leaving the other boy by his lonesome self in the bleachers yesterday. Eduardo stumbles with his words as he also formulates an apology, in this case, for the unwarranted touching that led to Leon's departure. Leon dismisses his apology and states that, although it had momentarily bothered him, he eventually "recovered from it (so he says jokingly). They then run laps together without communicating much, although Eduardo sometimes gauges Leon's svelte yet built physique even though he has no idea why.

Because of this, the two start to regularly hang out, although they still do not say so much as three sentences as a result of Eduardo's selective mutism. They frequent a bookstore, scouring for books, always running into the flirtatious 16-year old Hispanic cashier, Oliveria (Cierra Ramirez), whose coquettish nature always leaves the two dumbfounded as to her true intentions. They also visit the park, where they either engage in a one-on-one game of basketball or sit down to ponder their surroundings, where Eduardo becomes attentive to a gay couple (who are never explicitly name, but credited as Herman and Artemio) always seen strolling through the park. On one particular day, Leon notices Eduardo regarding them and begins disparaging them on the basis of their sexual orientation, looking to induce Eduardo into laughing. Eduardo feels bothered by this but does not join in with Leon, instead smiling faintly in feigned amusement in order to please him. Later that night, Eduardo yet again endures another day in an alternate dimension, this time one that seems completely ordinary until he realizes in it, Leon ignores him to hang out with his friends, which wakes him abruptly and in tears.

Another time, Eduardo and Leon hang out as usual at the park, where Leon inquires Eduardo on his reserved and uncommunicative nature. After Eduardo responds with uncertainty, Leon prods him furthermore, emanating Eduardo to reveal his selective mutism. When Leon exhibits confusion, Eduardo elaborates on it for the sake of Leon's comprehension, to which Leon commiserates him. Wishing to lighten up Eduardo, Leon accompanies him to a department store that Narcissa drags him to along with a submissive Solana, and ushers him into the store's "best-kept secret", where teenagers the same as them have repurposed the store's overstocked bean bags and dog beds in the storage room into a hang-out spot/waiting room. Solana deviates from the two friends, leaving them alone, and Leon begins complementing Eduardo and his hair, before preening it. Feeling elated but troubled, Eduardo decides to change the subject by expressing his intense connection to the late Mick Johnson and how he cannot fathom it. Leon suggests visiting the president's 65-year old daughter, Ellen Johnson (Ellen DeGeneres), herself a politician currently living in the town's most affluent neighborhood, which Eduardo reluctantly agrees to.

Come Saturday morning, the two friends, guided by Leon's digital mapping phone application, are directed to Ellen's neighborhood, quickly identifying the household where she lives in. After they introduce themselves and implore to have a moment with her, she becomes belligerent and orders for them to leave, only calming down after they announce their intentions to speak to her concerning her late father. Once inside, she asks to speak in private with Eduardo, who does not feel comfortable at the idea, but relents at Leon's behest and begins feeling comfortable increases as she reminisces on how her father's public persona as a stoic, inured man overshadowed his actual personality as a charismatic, compassionate family man. Eduardo concedes with her, after which Ellen discloses numerous things to him, including her father's claims of dimension-traveling while asleep, which she had chalked up to lucid dreaming on his part but decided to research it to make sure and found it to be a widely-experienced phenomena among those "troubled" by a personal issue, leading her to accept it as fact. Eduardo confesses he regularly sojourns to alternative universes as well, but does not expand upon this and becomes completely mute. Ellen tries to pry an answer out of him, something Leon witnesses and escorts Eduardo out of there, all the while denouncing Ellen for "inhibiting" Eduardo. Ellen becomes dumbfounded at first hearing of this, and scrutinizes them from her front door.

Later that night, Eduardo jumps into another dimension and finds himself on a mountain with Mick Johnson, who's gazing at the sunset next to an unidentified person. Eduardo acknowledges this as odd, which wakes him up before he can properly identify the other person.

Voice cast

  • Jake T. Austin as Eduardo, a 16-year old selective mute whose condition is gradually lessening with the help of his therapist Meredith when he falls for Leon. In an interview, Austin commented that he had to learn Spanish for the role of Eduardo.
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Leon, Eduardo's acquaintance, romantic fixation, and ultimately, boyfriend, who shared a few classes with him in middle school; he is a transferring student, originally zoned to another high school, who's introverted and finds difficulties in befriending other people. Trevor Jackson was originally credited as Leon's voice, but in actuality, Kelvin Harrison Jr. voices him.
  • Oscar Isaac as Alfredo, Eduardo's father who shows more compassion and understanding towards him and his condition but is somewhat emotionally distant. He and his wife hint at a divorce in the film, but it is never explicitly stated nor finalized.
  • Marina de Tavira as Narcissa, Eduardo's chatterbox mother who works 3 odd jobs to support her family (as her husband's minimum-wage job at a Spanish-language bookstore does not sustain mortgage) and barely has friends. She is insinuated to suffer from an anxiety disorder which may have been passed down to Eduardo and provoked his SM. Narcissa's dialogue will be entirely Spanish, as the voice actress Marina de Tavira is solely fluent in Spanish, with English subtitles provided for the dialogue.
  • Mia Xitlali as Solana, Eduardo's 11-year old sister who shows more generosity towards him than perhaps anyone else, but is otherwise uninterested in his shenanigans.
  • Ellen Page as Meredith, Eduardo's speech therapist who strives to make him feel comfortable talking rather than exert him to speak.
  • Jim Parsons as Reynolds, a possibly older student at Eduardo's school who also suffers from selective mutism and seeks a friendship with him, in spite of Eduardo's unwillingness. Parsons replaces Alex Wolff, who was listed as Reynolds' voice actor until it was revealed he had actually dropped out of the role a day into production and quickly replaced by Parsons.
  • Jon Voight as Mick Johnson, the fictional and former 42nd President of the United States who passes away at the beginning of the film at the age of 96 due to a broken heart following the death of his 95-year old wife and former First Lady Anastasia Johnson. Throughout the rest of the film, Eduardo finds himself deeply connected to Mick and sets to find out why exactly. Johnson was loosely inspired by the late George H.W. Bush, who was the 41st President of the United States.
  • Ellen DeGeneres as Ellen Johnson, Mick Johnson's 65-year old politician daughter who assists Eduardo when he believes he is spiritually connected to her father. She is partially inspired by Laura Bush, who is George H.W.'s daughter-in-law in reality.
  • Kevin Conroy and Wilson Cruz as Herman and Artemio, a gay couple in their 30s whom Eduardo admires at the park.
  • Retta as Fantasia, Leon's overbearing mother who adores children, especially Eduardo.
  • Jordan Peele as Damion, Leon's eccentric father with a lowly voice who dots on his pet gremlin more than his own son.
  • Cierra Ramirez as Oliveria, a 16-year old Hispanic girl working at a bookstore which Eduardo frequents whose coquettish nature is the subject of great internal debate for Eduardo towards her true intentions and a running joke in the film.
  • Jane Lynch as Mrs. Zimmerman, the blunt but well-meaning PE teacher for Eduardo's "Physical Wellbeing" class. Lynch voices this character in a nod to her previous role as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester from the 2009-15 TV dramedy Glee.

Production

The film was initially developed as a 17-episode miniseries (16 episodes each running for 5 minutes, and a 40-minute series finale) under the placeholder title Whatever It Takes, that was set to air on June 26, 2020, to commemorate LGBT Pride Month and the Stonewall riots (which occurred on June 28, 1969). Production began sometime in 2017, but halfway through production, Kenneth Dumont committed suicide. As he only directed 45 minutes of footage for the miniseries, French Donovan, a fellow animation director who worked on PikaRap for The CC (Cartoon Comedy), took over as director for the duration of production. Afterwards, the miniseries received its official title: Eduardo.

During San Diego Comic-Con 2018, on a panel for The CC (Cartoon Comedy), it was announced by French Donovan himself that the Eduardo miniseries concept had been scrapped and instead would be retooled as a 3-hour film instead. Despite this, it was still set for June 26, 2020. Following The CC (Cartoon Comedy)'s 2019 programming slate announcement on March 13, 2019, the film was moved down a year to June 28, 2019, on the anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall riots.

Jake T. Austin had to learn Spanish for some of movie's scenes, a process he would later admit in an interview with Variety was "very tasking for my brain and mouth, simultaneously", but in the end, "rewarding for each of them."

Casting

Nothing concerning casting would be announced until February 9, 2019, when a description and two voice actors, Oscar Isaac and Marina de Tavira (whose roles were undisclosed, but later revealed as Eduardo's parents, Alfredo and Narcissa, respectively), would materialize on TheCC.net website. Jake, T. Austin, Trevor Jackson, and Ellen Page, were later announced as part of the cast on February 14, 2019 as Eduardo, Leon, and Eduardo's speech therapist, Meredith, respectively. The CC.net website also added a page for the movie on the same day and announced in a blurb that more information not concerning casting would "come out" at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. After the film was moved to June 28, 2019, however, the panel for Eduardo was promptly scrapped, and instead new cast members and information was released concurrent with the announcement. Jon Voight and Ellen DeGeneres would join the cast on April 22, 2019, as Mick Johnson, the fictional and deceased 42nd President of the United States whom Eduardo feels a spiritual connection towards, and his daughter Ellen Johnson, respectively. Kevin Conroy and Wilson Cruz followed suit on May 5, 2019, although their role in the film were undisclosed. Retta was also cast not even a week after the previous casting announcement, on May 11, 2019, but her role was left undisclosed as well. Conroy and Cruz's roles were unveiled in the 2nd TV spot as that of a gay couple. The next TV spot eventually revealed Retta's character, Fantasia, who is the main character's love interest Leon's mother. The rest of casting was announced on May 28, 2019, during the last TV spot for Eduardo.

Although Alex Wolff was initially cast as the voice of Reynolds (another selective mute who attempts to befriend the main character Eduardo), it was reported by press releases that he had dropped out only a day into the film's production for reasons unknown and, in actuality, Jim Parsons (noticeable for his starring role on The Big Bang Theory) provided his voice for the film's entirety. Similarly, Trevor Jackson, who was listed as Leon's voice actor, was actually never involved with the film at all, with Kelvin Harrison Jr. actually voicing the character.

Music

Frequent The CC (Cartoon Comedy) song and soundtrack composer Samuel England was once again commissioned to compose the film's soundtrack, which will compose of R&B and pop music. On April 20, 2019, Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar both announced that they had recorded a song for Eduardo entitled "Nostalgia", while ILoveMakonnen also made an announcement that he too wrote an original song for the film called "When Love Springs". Rapper Logic later announced on April 25, 2019, that he had performed an original song called "Standing Ovation". Miguel followed suit two weeks later on May 9, 2019, declaring in an interview that he had written and performed a song called "War-Torn Nations" solely for the film. Almost three weeks later on May 28, 2019, more news about the soundtrack would be revealed. The track album was released on June 2, 2019, and the rest of the songs on the album were officially named on May 28.

No. Title Writer(s) Producers Length
1.
"Nostalgia" (performed by Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar) Frank Ocean * Daniel Caesar Samuel England * Om'Mas Keith 4:05
2.
"Solitude" (performed by James Blake) James Blake England * Blake 3:29
3.
"Symphony" (performed by Clean Bandit ft. Zara Larsson) Jack Patterson * Ammar Malik * Ina Wroldsen * Steve Mac Clean Bandit * Mark Ralph 3:32
4.
"When Love Springs" (performed by I LoveMakonnen) Makonnen Sheran * Ousala Aleem England * Sonny Digital 3:52
5.
"Loved By You" (performed by Powers) Crista Russo * Michael Gonzales Russo * Gonzales * Webs 3:56
6.
"Meet Me Halfway" (performed by The Black Eyed Peas) William Adams * Jean Baptiste * Stacy Ferguson
*Jaime Gomez * Sylvia Gordon * Keith Harris * Allan Lindo
will.i.am * Harris 4:44
7.
"Electricity" (performed by Silk City ft. Dua Lipa) Mark Ronson * Thomas Wesley Pentz *
Diana Gordon * Romy Madley Croft * Dua Lipa *
Philip Meckseper * Jacob Olofsson * Rami Dawod * Maxime Picard * Clément Picard
Silk City * Picard Brothers * Jarami * Riton * Jr Blender * Josh Groves 4:21
7.
"Cutey" (performed by Trevor Jackson) Trevor Jackson * Samuel England England * Jackson 3:36
8.
"War-Torn Nations" (performed by Miguel) Miguel Pimentel England * Pimentel 2:58
9.
"See You Again" (performed by Tyler, the Creator) Tyler Okonma Luis "Panch" Perez 3:01
10.
"Standing Ovation" (performed by Logic) Bobby Hall II * Arjun Ivatury England * Logic * 6ix 2:24
Total length: 37:58

Release

During its conception as a 17-episode miniseries, Eduardo was originally scheduled to premiere on June 26, 2020. After it was recut as a 2-hour television film, the film retained its original air date for a while before it was moved down from a year to June 28, 2019, in order to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Marketing

The film's official trailer was intentionally left out of airing in 2018 following the then-miniseries' reshoots to accommodate it to film standards. It finally premiered unannounced on April 30, 2019, and incorporated Selena's "Dreaming of You" as the background song. A week later, on May 7, 2019, the first TV spot for the film aired, which utilized the song "The Writer" by Ellie Goulding in the background. The next TV spot premiered a week from that on May 14, 2019. The song included in this spot was "Here with Me" by Marshmello featuring the band Chvrches. Another TV spot aired in correlation and timely on May 21, 2019, and the song that played was "Meet Me Halfway" by The Black Eyed Peas (which was later included in the film's soundtrack). The last TV spot produced aired on May 28, 2019, and was the only TV spot without the inclusion of background music. A second trailer aired on June 11, 2019 that featured the songs "Something In The Way You Move", originally performed by Ellie Goulding, and Khalid's singles "Talk and "Better".

Reception

The trailer's release on broadcast television and social media platforms prompted an overwhelmingly positive reception from both online users and film critics, who used terms such as "sweeping" and "refreshingly beautiful" to describe the trailer.

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 100% approval rating based on 185 reviews, and has an average rating of 9.498/10. The critical consensus states, "Whimsically endearing while also threading on tragedy, Eduardo elevates itself as a spearheaded, revolutionary animated film that steers of stereotypes, and common animation tropes, to relate a substantial tale of young LGBT love which still adheres to some conventionality." On Metacritic, another review aggregator website, the film has a weighted average of 82, which signifies "universal acclaim".

Multiple digital media outlets have lauded the film for its frank portrayal of a character with selective mutism and its "deft handling" of mature subject matters such as sexuality, male friendships, loneliness, overprotective parenting, and social anxiety, and for its inclusion of surrealism without "diluting the gravity of the film". A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club wrote in a review for the film that "[Eduardo] burrows itself deep to where no other animated film has gone before, and surfaces from the ground in uninhibited triumph." Carlos Aguilar of Cartoon Brew esteems the film in particular for centering on a Latino character with selective mutism, musing, "Eduardo has bestowed the animation industry with a protagonist rarely ever featured within its landscape: that of a Hispanic character with difficulties socializing or interacting in selective environments. It's unheard of for a motion animated picture to center around a character of Hispanic/Latino descent, much less one with an anxiety disorder. Character diversity should be as prominent in current animated films as it is in Eduardo. If this is the future of feature animation, it seems to be a prosperous one." Peter Debruge similarly praised the film in a review for Variety, writing, "With mediocre films such as The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Uglydolls integrating themselves as the status quo of animated films nowadays, the rich, sublime complexity of an atypical film like Eduardo feels transgressively refreshing, as it demands for progress in the inclusion of diverse characters and untold stories of marginalized and often ignored individuals".

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