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Toon Talk: Valiant
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Pictures/Vanguard Animation
Let's straighten out some confusion right off the bat: Valiant is not Chicken Little.
I can see how some people may be confused, after all these two films are both computer animated and both are about the heroism of previously non-heroic birds in an action comedy setting and both are being released by Walt Disney Pictures this year.
But Valiant, a tale of a homing pigeon who saves Europe during World War II, was produced by Vanguard Animation (an independent English company making their debut with this feature), and is merely being released stateside by Disney (in one could assume an arrangement similar to the one the studio has with Pixar), whereas Chicken Little, a tale of a little chicken who saves the world during an alien invasion, is actually produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and will hit theaters November 4th. The fact that Valiant was originally slated for release this past April but was then bumped to these, the dog days of summer (and therefore even closer to the release of Chicken Little) has only exacerbated the situation, with previews to both films running concurrently, which begs the question: can the public at large tell the difference between an animated pigeon and an animated chicken? And will they care?
What makes matters even more puzzling at these turn of events is that Valiant is not a very good picture. Mildly amusing in spots, technically proficient for the most part, but entirely forgettable, one would think that the marketing geniuses at Disney would want to distance Valiant as far as possible from their big "eventâ€? movie of the year, Chicken Little, the film that will supposedly bring Walt Disney Feature Animation completely into the digital age, their first full-length, all computer animated extravaganza. Factor in that Valiant has already been released in England to lackluster business and, well, speculation can run rampant as to what exactly they were thinking.
Set in an England besieged by war (in an odd case of white-washing, it is never actually referred to as World War II, nor are the enemies ever labeled Nazis, which they obviously are), the Royal Homing Pigeon Service (or RHPS, not to be confused with The Rocky Horror Picture Show), decimated by the opposing Falcon Brigade, is desperate for recruits. Enter Valiant (voiced with pluck by Ewan McGregor, this year's ubiquitous, Jude Law-ian British thespian), a pigeon low on wing span but high on, well, valiance, who is just the kind of underdog these type of films are built on.
He manages to be accepted into the RHPS along with other ragtag misfits, most notably Bugsy, a mangy bird who never met a birdbath he didn't take. This character, constantly molting feathers and swarmed by flies, is voiced by The Office's Ricky Gervais, so you know where all the burp and fart jokes (and believe me, there's plenty) will be coming from.