Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Thursday Special Edition. The Wild

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

So this was a weird one. It was produced and distributed by Disney, but actually made by C.O.R.E., a Canadian-based film and television computer animation special effects studio. It’s not considered part of the Disney canon… in the United States. However, it’s listed in the canon in the U.K. In the spirit of completeness, we’re going to check this out.

Title: The Wild

Year: 2006

Budget: $80 million

Box office: $102.3 million

Plot: In Central Park Zoo, Samson the Lion tells his 11-year-old son Ryan stories of his adventures in the wild. That night, when the zoo closes, all the animals are free to roam. Samson, along with his friends Benny, a Eastern gray squirrel, Bridget, a reticulated giraffe, Larry, an anaconda snake, and Nigel, a British koala, compete in a turtle curling championship while Ryan is with his friends.

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Ryan accidentally causes a stampede of Thomson’s gazelle, which head to the game. Samson and Ryan have a falling out, and Ryan storms off before Samson can apologize. Ryan wanders into a green box, until he gets shipped away by a truck owned by Animal Service Employees, which the legend tells will take him to the wild while Samson claims that they are dangerous.

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With the help of a pigeon, Hamir, Samson and Benny go after him, sneaking into a garbage disposal truck with Nigel, Larry, and Bridget coming as well, accidentally throwing Benny off the truck. After passing through Times Square and nearly being crushed in the garbage disposal, the group encounters a pack of rabid stray dogs. Samson leads them through the sewer rather than scaring them off. There, they take directions to the docks from two street wise alligator brothers, Stan and Carmine.

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The next morning, the four friends steal a tugboat during a hectic escape from New York harbor. With help from Larry, they drive the boat and reunite with Benny, who has enlisted a flock of Canada geese to help lead the crew in the right direction of Ryan’s ship. Days later, Nigel goes mad and, under the impression they have hit an iceberg, jumps overboard, Only to discover that the ship has run aground in Africa.

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In Africa,the group quickly discovers that all the animals in the area are being evacuated by the carriers, as a nearby volcano erupts. They witness Ryan escaping, but he runs into the jungle. Samson attempts to find him, but it is quickly revealed that he has in fact never been in the wild before after trying to eat a rude Hyrax. The rest of the group head back to the ship, but Samson decides to keep trying to find his son. While walking, Samson starts seeing plants and rocks change colors.

Nigel is captured by a herd of wildebeests who dwell in the volcano, and their leader Kazar, pronounces him ‘The Great Him’, based on an ‘omen’ he received when he was young: about to be devoured by lions, a toy koala fell from the sky (actually from a plane) and scared the lions away, saving his life. Kazar has founded a cult intent on changing the food chain, Anticipating the day when “prey become predators” and vice versa. For this, he needs to eat a lion, Which he believes that Nigel’s help will allow him to do.

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Bridget and Larry are also captured and held prisoner. Ryan hides up an old tree, but is attacked by a gang of vultures led by Scab and Scraw acting under orders from Kazar. The branch breaks and traps his paw. Samson hears Ryan’s cries and runs to save him, scaring off the birds. The two reunite, but are interrupted by Kazar’s wildebeest minions led by Blag. Ryan is shocked when Samson tells him to run.

The two retreat to a tree where Samson reveals the truth. He was born in the circus and like Ryan, was unable to roar. One night, he was forced to appear in a show with the intent of him roaring at a mechanical bull but failed due to his inability to roar, much to the disappointment of the audience. Later, his uncaring father disowns him as a son and allows him to be sent to the zoo, claiming that he would know how to roar if he were born in the wild. After becoming an orphan, he lied to avoid the shame.

The wildebeests discover them and, in the scuffle, send the tree over the cliff with Samson still hanging on. Ryan is captured and taken to the volcano. Benny finds Samson and encourages him to be himself, even if he’s not from the wild. They find two chameleons, who were leading Samson to the volcano and are also trying to defeat Kazar’s army of his kind. Samson uses the chameleons’ camouflage abilities to slip into Kazar’s lair.

Nigel tries his best to stall the wildebeests from cooking his friends, and eventually Samson fights Kazar but is overwhelmed. Ryan, seeing Samson in danger, climbs onto a catapulting device and launches himself at Kazar, finally letting out a roar. With Kazar distracted, Samson manages to defeat him. Ryan tells Samson that he is happy to have him for a dad. The other wildebeests are touched by this and refuse to serve Kazar any further.

Samson gains the courage he has needed after seeing the illusion of the mechanical wildebeest over a charging Kazar and roars powerfully enough to push him back. The animals, along with the wildebeests, flee except Kazar, who is trapped by the toy koala’s pull-string and crushed to death in the erupting volcano.

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The animals and wildebeests manage to escape on the boat and travel back to the New York Zoo.

Background: C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures was started in 1994 by John Mariella, Kyle Menzies, Bob Munroe and William Shatner. It produced special effects for several film and television projects such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Silent Hill, Lucky Number Slevin, Saw 2 Evolution, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Blade II,The Time Machine, X-Men, Dr. Dolittle, Flubber, Mimic, Spawn, Cube, Fly Away Home, Johnny Mnemonic, The Tudors, and Wonderfalls.

They branched out to feature films with The Wild. It was their only animated feature. It met with unfavourable critical and commercial reaction. With 400 temporary employees, The Wild had the largest production crew for a film made in Canada. With a rising exchange rate as with most Canadian animation firms, C.O.R.E. was getting fewer jobs from America. So in March 2010, C.O.R.E. stopped operating and laid off their employees

Music and Songs: The musical score is composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Songs include:

  • “Real Wild Child” performed by Everlife
  • “Good Enough” performed by Lifehouse
  • “Clocks” performed by Coldplay
  • “Really Nice Day” performed by Eric Idle and John Du Prez
  • “Big Time Boppin’ (Go Man Go)” performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • “Lovin’ You” performed by Minnie Riperton.

Voice Cast:

Kiefer Sutherland as Samson. He is best known for his portrayal of Jack Bauer on 24. 1He also starred in the series Designated Survivor. He has appeared in films like Stand by Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns, Flatliners, A Few Good Men, The Three Musketeers, A Time to Kill, Dark City, Phone Booth, Melancholia, and Pompeii. Jim Belushi as Benny. He starred in the sitcom According to Jim from 2001 to 2009. His other television roles include Saturday Night Live, Wild Palms, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Show Me a Hero, and Twin Peaks. He has appeared in the films Thief, Trading Places, About Last Night, Salvador, Red Heat, K-9, Mr. Destiny, Curly Sue, Jingle All the Way, Underdog, and The Ghost Writer.

Eddie Izzard as Nigel. A standup comedian, he had a starring role in the television series The Riches and has appeared in the films Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Mystery Men, Shadow of the Vampire, The Cat’s Meow, Across the Universe, Valkyrie and Victoria & Abdul. He has also worked as a voice actor in Igor, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Cars 2 and The Lego Batman Movie. Janeane Garofalo as Bridget. She began her career as a stand-up comedian and became a cast member on The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and Saturday Night Live. She appeared in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Wet Hot American Summer, The Matchmaker, Reality Bites, Steal This Movie!, Clay Pigeons, Sweethearts, Mystery Men, and The Independent. She also appeared in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, 24, and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. From March 2004 to July 2006, she hosted Air America Radio’s The Majority Report with Sam Seder.

William Shatner as Kazar. He is best known for playing James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the Star Trek franchise. He has also co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe as well as directed one of the feature films in the franchise. He has written a series of science fiction novels called TekWar. He has also statred in T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Practice and Boston Legal. 2 Other film roles include The Brothers Karamazov, Judgment at Nuremberg, Airplane II: The Sequel, Miss Congeniality, and DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story. Greg Cipes as Ryan. He is best known for voicing Beast Boy in the animated television series Teen Titans, and Kevin Levin in Ben 10. He also appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles voicing Michelangelo, and Tu in The Legend of Korra.

Colin Hay as Fergus Flamingo. He was the lead vocalist of the band Men at Work. He appeared on The Larry Sanders Show, JAG, The Mick Molloy Show, Scrubs, What About Brian, The Black Donnellys, Cane, and Casualty. Jack DeSena as Eze. He is best known for his work on the sketch comedy series All That, and voice work for the character of Sokka on the series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Don Cherry as Penguin MC. He is a Canadian ice hockey commentator, a sports writer, as well as a retired professional hockey player and NHL coach. He coached the Boston Bruins for five seasons after concluding a successful teenty-year playing career in the American Hockey League. Jonathan Kimmel as Scab. His writing credits include six seasons of South Park, That’s My Bush!, Drawn Together, The Bonnie Hunt Show, and The Man Show. Kimmel’s performing credits include Life With Bonnie, Jesus Is Magic, Drawn Together, and The Sarah Silverman Program.

Lenny Venito as Stan. He has appeared in Gigli, Men in Black 3, and War of the Worlds. He leant his voice as Uncle Chuck on the series Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero. Joseph Siravo as Carmine. His film debut was in the film, Carlito’s Way. He has appeared in The Sopranos, The Wannabe, Witness to the Mob, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. On stage, Siravo played more than 1,000 performances as Gyp DeCarlo in the first national tour of Jersey Boys.

Miss Coco Peru 3 as Mama Hippo. She is known for the independent film Trick and Girls Will Be Girls. Since 2005, shehas appeared in the “Conversations with Coco” series in which she “interviews and celebrates the lives and careers of the LGBT community’s favorite icons.” She has appeared in a number of other supporting and guest-starring roles in television and film, including Will & Grace, Arrested Development, Twins, Boy Meets Boy, Welcome to the Parker, and Detroit 1-8-7. Dominic Scott Kay as Young Samson. Heis best known for his work as the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. He has appeared in and in the post-credits scene of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Minority Report, and Snow Buddies. He also appeared on season five of the American edition of The Voice.

Chris Edgerly as Cloak. A proflic voice actor, he provided the voice of Peter Potamus on the series, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. He has also leant his voice to Drawn Together, Duck Dodgers, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Codename: Kids Next Door, Kenan & Kel, Halo 2, Tales of Symphonia, Final Fantasy VII, Kingdom Hearts II, Lineage II, Justice League Heroes, Spider-Man in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars . He recently become a cast member for The Simpsons. Bob Joles as Camo. He is another prolific voice actor appearing in Samurai Jack, Justice League Unlimited, Elena of Avalor, SpongeBob SquarePants, Spider-Man, (as J. Jonah Jameson) Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost, The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: Have Time, Will Travel, The Jungle Book 2, The Lion King 1½, The Ant Bully, Puss in Boots, Ernest & Celestine, Top Cat Begins and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Standup comic Eddie Gossling appears as Scraw, Kevin Michael Richardson returns as Samson’s father, Patrick Warburton returns as Blaggar, and Richard Kind returns as Larry.

Critical Reception: Critics considered The Wild to be heavily derivative of the 2005 DreamWorks film, Madagascar. USA Today suggested that it was “the most wildly derivative animated movie in ages”, while Variety described it as “ultimately done in by the persistent stench of been-there-seen-that”. Despite this, a few critics defended The Wild as the superior film. Critic Mike Sage wrote “don’t be mistaking this for a Madagascar rip-off, when it was that sloppy DreamWorks turd that only managed to make it to theaters first because of corporate espionage”.

Without addressing which film was the original concept, Tim Cogshell of Boxoffice Magazine simply wrote “for the adult who may very well have to experience this film, and who may have experienced Madagascar, The Wild is better. The animation is better, the jokes intended for your children are better, the jokes intended for you and not your children are much better, the songs are better, and it’s more fun.”

Legacy: A video game for Game Boy Advance based on The Wild was released to coincide with the film.

My take: So I really didn’t know what to expect. The animation was on par with anything you would see at Dreamworks, it’s at least as good as Madagascar. I will say the opening sequence of Samson telling the story had some interesting looking animation, and the Times Square sequence was pretty good too. It’s kind of a shame this was their only film, as I think it showed promise. Sadly, we never got a sophomore effort from them.

Next Week: Back to our regularly scheduled program with Cars