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Animation / Willy the Sparrow

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It's a bird's life!

Boys will be boys, and in all my years I've never met anyone quite like him. He had such an active mind, and such an imagination that things practically came to life. His name was Willy.
—The opening narration, spoken by the Sparrow Guardian.

Willy the Sparrow (Hungarian: Vili, a veréb) is a 1989 Hungarian animated film, produced by Pannonia Film Studio, about a thoughtless boy who is turned into a sparrow so he can learn to respect the smallest of creatures.

Tropes used by the film:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Cats do not switch from the standard "square teeth grin" to actual barrage of fangs when they find a sparrow that turns out to be their owner. Seriously, don't tell your biology teacher because it isn't true.
  • Bad Samaritan: The two rats task Cipur with breaking a bottle of the "Elixer of Knowledge" so he may partake in it. One gets the feeling they only want him in to have alcohol they otherwise could not have obtained themselves.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Cipur/Cyprus cannot control himself when the rats give him alcohol. To be fair, the rats told him it was a potion that would make him smarter. It even prevents him from flying right.
    Cipur: Those rats lied! I'm no smarter, only sick!
    Willy: That stuff doesn't make you smart, it makes you do dumb things.
    Cipur: You should've warned me. Now, leave me alone. I'm going home.
    Willy: You can't fly!
    Cipur: JUST WATCH ME. [he tries flying but runs smack into something]
  • Cats Are Mean: Cili/Sissy and Krampusz/Blackie are both antagonistic cats. The former wants revenge on her owner Willy for tormenting her when he was still human, and the latter is simply pure evil, especially towards the sparrows. Sissy seems to lose this at the end, as she's friendly towards Willy once he returns to human form.
  • December–December Romance: Hinted at towards the end between Sparina, the newly-retired sparrow guardian, and a newly-human Cipur.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Cipur/Cyprus, the old sparrow, is given alcohol by a pair of rats, so that he cannot defend himself when they try to eat him.
  • Embarrassing First Name: The fat sparrow that's constantly hungry is named Tubby in the English dub.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Blackie, the most antagonistic character in the movie, is a massive tomcat towering over not only the sparrows, but even his fellow cat Sissy.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The film opens as an Indiana Jones-style adventure with "Captain Williams" trying to steal a jewel from a temple, fighting off tigers with a Ray Gun. It's just Willy's Imagine Spot as he plays in his room, shooting at his sister's cat with a water gun.
  • Forced Transformation: Willy is a human kid turned into a sparrow by a fairy. He's also briefly turned into a mouse and a crocodile.
  • Forgot I Couldn't Swim: The Sparrow Guardian turned Willy into a mouse before she remembered that she is afraid of them.
  • Furry Baldness: Cipur, the elderly sparrow has white feathers on his head, resembling an old man's descending hairline.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: As close as sparrows can get to it, anyway, but before the climactic showdown with Blackie, Red learns the hard way what a bad idea it is to pick a fight with Willy, who has been involved in such fights before as a human.
  • Humanity Ensues: When Willy is turned back, his elderly sparrow friend is also transformed into a human. Willy insists right beforehand that he wouldn't have it any other way.
  • In Another Man's Shoes: Turning into a sparrow makes Willy understand the sparrows' point of view.
  • Ingesting Knowledge: In the English version at least, Cipur is tricked into getting drunk by two rats who claim the alcohol is the "Elixir of Human Knowledge".
  • Karmic Transformation: After abusing animals for his own entertainment, Willy himself gets turned into a sparrow as a punishment by the Sparrow Guardian.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Willy was as a human, being mean towards Sissy and needlessly menacing sparrows with an air rifle.
  • Literal Transformative Experience: Willy is a bratty kid who is rude with his sister, plays rough with their pet cat, and shoots at sparrows with his BB gun. After the Sparrow Guardian turns him into a sparrow, he joins a sparrow flock where he learns friendship and respect.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The Hungarian version's inspiring-sounding ending song has lyrics about how there are no real miracles in the world, our months and years are passing in a grey monotone, and the best you can do is to pretend that your dreams are real. In the English version, it was replaced with another song about how awesome flying is.
  • Morphic Resonance: Willy, in sparrow form, keeps his brown mop hair, freckles, and scarf. Cipur, in his human form, also has the same curly, receding hair, beard and bowtie that he had in his sparrow form, and his suit is the same shade of brown his feathers were.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Krampusz, the black cat is named after the Krampus, a devil-like figure in Germanic folklore who punishes naughty children at Christmas. His English name, Blackie, is a lot less frightening.
  • Non-Mammalian Hair: The sparrows all have feathers resembling human hairstyles on their head. In the case of Willy and Cipur it looks identical to their hair in human form.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Sparrow Guardian is regularly referred to as a fairy in the Hungarian version. Instead of a wand, she casts her spells from a magical spray can.
  • Passing the Torch: At the end of the film, Sparina passes on her position as Sparrow Guardian to Willy.
  • Playing Sick: Willy plays sick at the beginning of the movie to skip a difficult test at school.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Downplayed. Cipur's wine-tasting with the two bad rats cause him to lose his temper towards Willy out of inebriation. However, that doesn't mean Willy stops being his friend and still brings him home safely when Cipur's too drunk to fly properly.
  • Ship Tease: Between Willy and Amy. While not the focus of the movie it is implied that at least Amy has a crush on Willie. Examples include several compliments to Willie and being the only one who was nice enough to come and find him in the bad weather and tell him that Red and the others are very angry at him. She looks disappointed when Willie flies off to fight Red instead of spending more time in her nest in the morning. Willie saving her life earlier could be taken as either him just being a good kid or ship tease. There's also a bit of tease between the Sparrow Guardian and human Cipur at the end.
  • Shout-Out: Willy reads a part from Hamlet from a piece of paper to Cipur in the English dub.note 
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Sissy, Willy's pet cat. Justified, as she is not only hunting for food, but also wants revenge on Willy for tormenting her.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Happens twice in the final act.
    • Red decides to punish Willy for allegedly screwing up their trip to the barn by taking two of his feathers and ends up fighting him over it. Willy, having been in fights before as a human, has the physical advantage, and picking a fight with him turns out to be the mistake that costs Red his position as the flock's alpha.
    • Unfortunately for Willy, his combat prowess isn't enough to save him from Blackie, a cat who is much bigger than any of the other sparrows, and all Cipur's Big Damn Heroes moment does is buy him enough time for Sparina, the Sparrow Guardian, to chase Blackie out of the barn once and for all.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Willy starts out as a bratty kid who fakes an illness to skip school, is rude to his sister and abuses animals for his own amusement. During his experiences as a sparrow, he learns kindness and responsibility ultimately allowing him to become the new Sparrow Guardian.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The sparrow flock that Willy joins consists of five males and only two females.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: After spending the first scene of the movie as a Butt-Monkey and the victim of Willy's games, Cili the cat suddenly gets the upper hand against Willy when he gets turned into a sparrow, and attempts to eat him.
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: Both played straight and subverted. Willy learns lessons from a mere bird, and bad rats in the bar tell him to drink the "Elixir of Knowledge", which is really alcohol.
  • You Dirty Rat!: The two evil rats who get Cipur drunk, with the intention of eating him. Also the evil mouse that wakes Blackie up.