Disney Marathon: ‘The Wild’


The last time we looked at Sleeping Beauty, one of the best known and most recognisable movies in the Disney canon. Now it’s time for one of the most forgotten and buried Disney animated movies. This is the one that you’re most likely to have never heard off, let alone seen.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 40 year old blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old princess) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: The Wild

Released: 2006

Director: Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams

Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Belushi, Eddie Izzard, Janeane Garofalo, Richard Kind, Greg Cipes, William Shatner, Patrick Warburton

Plot: A lion escapes from New York Zoo to retrieve another animal who escaped, only for him and a group of friends to be accidentally shipped to Africa where they experience culture shock from being in their native habitat.

Review: Yeah, I know. But that’s the plot. I didn’t accidentally write the plot for Madagascar. The two are suspiciously similar from the setting, basic plot and characters. Even the small details are have uncomfortable similarities, such as a group of small whacky animals who think they’re secret agents and the egotistical lion being known for roaring at visitors at the zoo. These common elements are all the more glaring considering The Wild released into cinemas months after Madagascar.

When looking into what happened here we found official information on very thin ground. There had been a pattern of Dreamworks, who have a well-reputed beef with Disney, releasing similar movies at around the same time. A Bugs Life became Antz, Finding Nemo became Shark Tale, Ratatouille and Flushed Away, Emperor’s New Groove and Road to El Dorado…this has clearly been an attempt to undermine Disney’s box office. It would appear that The Wild was in production before Madagascar, but similarities are much, much more blatant. We’re left wondering if Dreamworks got hold of a script and changed it just enough to get away without a lawsuit. They’re helped along by reaching our screens a few months earlier. And being better.

This is the one, and only one, instance of the Dreamworks movie being the clearcut better product (New Groove and El Dorado are debatable). There’s more ambition in The Wild, with a bigger cast, more refined animation and less reliance on pop music and the public personas of the actors. It’s just that it falls down on almost every front. The story is convoluted, the design is ugly and the jokes are flat.

Rather than looking for a missing friend, our hero Samson (Sutherland) is trying to rescue his son Ryan (Cipes – later the voice of Beast Boy!). Ryan is driven away by Samson’s disappointment in his son’s inability to roar. Along for the journey is pompous koala Nigel (perplexingly voiced by British comedian Eddie Izzard, who plays him has British), dumb anaconda Larry (Kind) and girl giraffe Bridget (Garofalo). Wikipedia tells me she’s ‘insecure’, but her only character trait is being a token girl. She’s constantly hit on a squirrel voiced by Jim Belushi and the only good thing about this character is when it looks like he gets left behind.

The animals hit the streets of New York during what I assume is 2020 because it is deserted. They have some run-ins with feral dogs and alligators in the sewers, but this sequence adds little to the overall movie. Except the large advertisements for Disney Radio and The Lion King on Broadway. Which means Disney exists in this Disney movie. Eventually they find the shipping container Ryan got trapped in is being shipped to an unnamed Africa, so they steal a boat and pilot it themselves. To Africa.

Once here they run afoul of a group of jungle-dwelling wildebeest herd lead by Kazar (Shatner). Kazar founded a cargo cult based on a piece of Nigel merchandise that was dropped from a plane, and spends his time choreographing elaborate dance numbers. His plan is to eat Ryan to achieve the top of the food chain, which is a noticeably dark turn. Samson is forced to come clean about his bad-ass stories battling wildebeest in Africa, revealing he was raised in a circus, and learn to be a lion.

The cargo cult plot is funny, but the writers felt that the whacky dancing was much more deserving of screen time. Eddie Izzard is always worth the ticket price, but again everyone seemed to think Jim Belushi should get the punchlines. They’ve assembled a good cast but they are not put to good use. We don’t care about the characters, the story struggles to come up with reasons for the movie to happen and even the kids were bored.

Worst of all is the animation. They’ve gone for a much more realistic look for the animals than the cubist style of Madagascar. Unfortunately computer generated graphics in the early to mid 2000s was not up to challenge. When we get close to the creatures the texture of the skin and fur looks pretty good, but the overall approach gives them ugly facial expressions. At times it gave me flashbacks of Food Fight, which is something you never, ever want to be compared to. Director ‘Spaz’ sticks the characters faces right up close to the camera, and often smack bang in the centre of frame, so we’re constantly forced to dwell on the ugly faces.

This is a bad movie. Don’t watch it.

Best Song: I don’t remember any.

Coolest Easter Egg: I didn’t spot any, apart from the blatant cross-promotions. I tried to look some up but only got results from ‘Breath of the Wild’.

Weirdest Trivia: This was a massive production with more than 400 animators working to bring it to life. Sorry, folks.

Rating: TWO out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

The only reason it isn’t on the bottom of the list is because Chicken Little is so bloody obnoxious. At least I can tune this one out.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. The Lion King
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Moana
  10. Big Hero 6
  11. The Great Mouse Detective
  12. The Little Mermaid
  13. Frozen
  14. Tangled
  15. The Sword in the Stone
  16. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  17. Mulan
  18. Cinderella
  19. Emperor’s New Groove
  20. Fantasia
  21. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  22. The Three Caballeros
  23. The Jungle Book
  24. Sleeping Beauty
  25. The Princess and the Frog
  26. Hercules
  27. Oliver & Company
  28. The Aristocats
  29. Fun and Fancy Free
  30. Saludos Amigos
  31. Home on the Range
  32. Bolt
  33. Dinosaur
  34. The Fox and the Hound
  35. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  36. Pocahontas
  37. A Goofy Movie
  38. Fantasia 2000
  39. Treasure Planet
  40. The Wild
  41. Chicken Little

AMELIA

“Why is the koala English?!!! It didn’t even look like a koala! Was this made just after Australia was discovered and they drew the animals wrong? Why does the kangaroo have yellow hair on its head?!”

My kids are both Australian. This was a major point of contention.

  1. Frozen
  2. Moana
  3. Tangled
  4. The Little Mermaid
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Zootopia
  7. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  8. The Great Mouse Detective
  9. Home on the Range
  10. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  11. Mulan
  12. Hercules
  13. Alice in Wonderland
  14. Cinderella
  15. Wreck-It Ralph
  16. Bolt
  17. Pocahontas
  18. Dinosaur
  19. The Aristocats
  20. The Princess and the Frog
  21. Robin Hood
  22. The Jungle Book
  23. Fantasia 2000
  24. The Lion King
  25. Beauty and the Beast
  26. The Three Caballeros
  27. The Fox and the Hound
  28. The Sword in the Stone
  29. Saludos Amigos
  30. Oliver & Company
  31. Aladdin
  32. Treasure Planet
  33. Big Hero 6
  34. Fun and Fancy Free
  35. Sleeping Beauty
  36. A Goofy Movie
  37. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  38. Chicken Little
  39. The Wild
  40. Fantasia

JOSHUA

“Quite boring. The characters didn’t look good.” Josh found the facial animation more off-putting than I did.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. The Lion King
  15. The Jungle Book
  16. Robin Hood
  17. Bolt
  18. The Sword in the Stone
  19. Beauty and the Beast
  20. Oliver & Company
  21. Sleeping Beauty
  22. Tangled
  23. The Great Mouse Detective
  24. Cinderella
  25. The Little Mermaid
  26. Home on the Range
  27. Pocahontas
  28. A Goofy Movie
  29. The Aristocats
  30. Fantasia
  31. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  32. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  33. Fun and Fancy Free
  34. The Fox and the Hound
  35. Fantasia 2000
  36. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  37. Dinosaur
  38. Hercules
  39. Alice in Wonderland
  40. The Wild
  41. Chicken Little