Sunday 25 June 2017

French Animation, Chapitre 9 - The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Previously: April and the Twisted World

What is it?
While the United States are currently enjoying Cars 3, Pixar's latest outing will only open in August in France. Instead, French animation fans are treated with a new feature film by Benjamin Renner, one of the directors of the critically acclaimed Ernest & Celestine.
This time, Renner adapted one of his own comic books, Le Grand Méchant Renard, which was published in 2015 and for which he took his inspiration from French literature classic La Fontaine's Fables.
Though he was only a director on Ernest & Celestine, he co-wrote this one with Jean Regnaud and co-directed with Patrick Imbert.

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales tells three short stories happening in a French farm and its surroundings. In the first one a pig, a duck and a bunny are tasked by a lazy stork to deliver a human baby - Pauline - to her parents. In the second story, three chicks think the titular Big Bad Fox - who is in fact anything but bad - is their mother. And in the last one, the pig, duck and bunny of the first story are back to "save" Christmas. In each case, hilarity ensues.
The threes stories were first supposed to air separately on TV as specials, but were put together for a theatrical release.

How is it?
Unsurprisingly, the look of the film is sumptuous. Benjamin Renner's style is charming. Simple, yes - his characters are sometimes nothing more than a few lines here and there with big round eyes - but their expressivity is on point.
Big kudos to the animators who always find a fun thing to do to the protagonists. In the end, this quite streamlined hand-drawn design makes the characters as believable (and sometimes more) than in your usual CG flick.

The tone of the film goes from hilarious - absurd humour, slapstick and dialogues are all great here - to moving. The characters are either funny, cute, or a combination of both - each with its distinctive personality: the bossy pig, the naïve fox, the fighting hen…
The filmmakers tried to unite the three segments into a single film, by making the whole thing a play, with the fox introducing each new story. Yet, you feel that the three stories are distinct entities; the only links are the setting, the play, and some characters that appear in several stories; but one segment never impacts another one.
This is of course due to the way the film was produced, but this is still a shame and the only clear negative thing about this movie.

I of course highly recommend seeing The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales if/when possible. It's a charming one, both in animation and writing. The film goes by very fast - then again, it's only 80 minutes long - and is equally fun and engaging for kids and adults.

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