Opening 9 Aug 2018
Writing credits: Christopher Jenkins, Rob Muir, Scott Atkinson, Tegan West
Principal actors: Jim Gaffigan, Zendaya , Lance Lim, Greg Proops, Natasha Leggero
The geese are preparing to fly south for the winter. They practice exact formations under the strict commands of their leader Bing. Young Peng refuses to adhere to the rules. Why always fly in a “V” formation? What’s wrong with a “C” or an “M”? This lack of discipline leads to accidents and soon Peng finds himself on the ground with an injured wing. Unable to fly, Peng must waddle his way southwards in the hopes of catching up with the group; he especially misses his girlfriend Jingjing. Lissy, a small duck, and her baby brother Lucky are also lost and cling to Peng, calling him Mama. For selfish reasons, Peng agrees that they accompany him. Adventures await along the way, including confrontations with other animals. There is Banzou, a mean fat cat with one good eye who likes to eat both geese and ducks. Larry is an ancient turtle – quite friendly but very slow. Carl is a squirrel and then there are Stanley and Edna, two chickens. Finally, they reach Pleasant Valley in the middle of town, and, if you didn’t know already, you will now: they are in China and Pleasant Valley is a Chinese restaurant where crispy duck is a specialty.
The Chinese references, except perhaps for some of the names, are quite subtle, making it truly a universal story. Occasionally a farmer rides by wearing a typical Chinese hat; they run into the Great Wall of China. Director Jenkins said that the look, i.e., the amazingly beautiful scenery, “is a declaration of love to Chinese nature, just as the Walt Disney film Bambi was a declaration of love for the landscape of North America.” The text was also marvelous in the German version I saw, which makes me very curious to experience the original English version. The central theme is learning to be a “parent” to care for those who are smaller. Director Jenkins relied on his own experiences as a father. He said, “This is a film for all children, for all who once were children, and for all who might have raised a child.” I would say: yes, for everyone, probably six years and older. Jenkins worked in several facilities for Disney before becoming independent. Here, he could draw upon the talents of the Nanjing office of Original Force Animation, a Chinese business with 1200 employees in five offices in the US and China. (Becky Tan)