The Hero of Color City – animated movie review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Hero of Color City, directed by Frank Gladstone. 77 minutes. October 3, 2014.
Since I have already reviewed The Nut Job and Thunder and the House of Magic, I may as well review the third similar animated feature here: October 2014’s The Hero of Color City. I am reviewing it primarily to let you know about it, in case you want to see it. You’ve seen the Transformers movies, about anthropomorphized whatever-they-are’s. Now here are anthropomorphized crayons! You won’t get many opportunities to see anthropomorphized crayons.
I criticized most of the reviews of The Nut Job and Thunder and the House of Magic, which were very negative, as irrelevant because they judged the movie as an adult theatrical feature, whereas it was a children’s film. The Hero of Color City is for even younger children – preschoolers – and the reviews tend to be of two types. Those that do review it as kidnergarteners’ fare are generally positive. Those that review it for the parents who will accompany those kindergarteners are really negative. And I can’t say that I disagree with them.
Here is the plot synopsis from the review from Variety, October 2, 2014, by Geoff Berkshire:
“Lacking any of the visual sophistication customary in contemporary bigscreen toons, The Hero of Color City more closely resembles the by-the-numbers smallscreen product churned out overseas to fill time on countless tyke-oriented cable channels. The youngest members of the film’s target audience aren’t likely to care much about the lack of craft here, but grown-ups will immediately spot a generic rip-off and tune out accordingly. They won’t be missing much.
“The rudimentary storyline follows Yellow (voiced by Christina Ricci), a slightly timid crayon gently forced to face her fears. By day, Yellow and her fellow crayons are the property of a 6-year-old boy who loves to draw, but when he goes to sleep at night the crayons come alive. Their box serves as a magical rainbow portal to Color City — a quaint small town along the lines of a less evocative Candyland — where crayons of all colors can relax at a local spa that restores their tips to mint condition. (This really isn’t the sort of movie prepared to handle an existential crisis over finite crayon lifespans. Instead, the various colors are only unhappy when they’re not being used.)
“When Yellow unwittingly releases a pair of her owner’s unfinished doodles from their sheet of paper — monstrous mute King Scrawl and his wisecracking sidekick Gnat (Craig Ferguson) — they follow her into Color City and proceed to hog the local color supply for themselves. So Yellow sets out with five pals — heroic Blue (Wayne Brady), sassy Red (Rosie Perez), brainy Green (Jess Harnell), nervous White (Jeremy Guskin) and pessimistic Black (David Kaye) — to save the day and learn some important lessons about friendship, compassion and self-confidence in the process.”
Supporting characters include Sheriff Brown, a stereotypical Western cowboy; Madam Pink, a stereotypical French fashion expert; and Professor Heliotrope, a blatant copy of Jerry Lewis as The Nutty Professor – a reference that kidnergarteners won’t get but that will be overly obvious to any accompanying adults. All three should seem very out of place in Color City, except it’s such a young child’s fantasyland. The crayons spend more time worrying about being broken (as little children are apt to do) than about being used up by young Ben.
Practically every critic has pointed out the basic imitation of Pixar’s Toy Story combined with Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph: toys/crayons that only come alive when no humans are present, and go into their own garish fantasy world to have their adventure. The characters are one-dimensional, the plot is very predictable, and the frequent songs are uninspired at best. Why furry fans may like it despite all this is that it’s constantly cheery, it has a pleasant art design and is unbelievably bright, it is mostly humorous (shallowly, but still humorous), and the concept of live crayons is just so unusual.
The Hero of Color City was released on Friday, October 3 in one theater each in almost seventy cities across America for a week, mostly to officially qualify for the Oscars, the Annies, and other awards. It became available on the same day on Time-Warner Cable’s On Demand TV, to December 1. On December 2, it was released on DVD for $26.98 (with a 10% discount at Amazon.com). Check out the trailer, and decide for yourself whether the movie looks worth watching.
Some people (me, at least) may consider the most intriguing part of the movie to be the three corporate logos that open it. Magnolia Pictures. Exodus Film Group. Toonz Entertainment. Have you ever heard of any of them? All three go back to at least 2001. Magnolia Pictures, headquartered in Dallas, TX, has distributed over two hundred features, mostly art films and documentaries. Exodus Film Group, headquartered in Venice, CA, has produced/is producing three CGI animated features: Igor, distributed in September 2008 by MGM; this film; and the forthcoming Bunyan & Babe.
Toonz Entertainment may be the most interesting of the three. It is also known as Toonz Animation India Pvt Ltd., and it is located in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala state in southwest India. Toonz has been known up to now for its CGI commercials for Indian TV. It looks like The Hero of Color City was planned in “Hollywood” – the director is Frank Gladstone, a veteran of the Disney, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks Animation studios living in the Los Angeles area; he is also the current president of ASIFA-Hollywood; and most of the Color City writing and art credits show American names for the writers, artists, and voice talent – and subcontracted to Toonz in Trivandrum for the CGI production. This follows DisneyToons Studios’ creating the story and voice recordings of its Planes movies in Hollywood, then subcontracting the CGI production to Prana Studios in Mumbai.
It looks like, soon, anyone with sufficient expertise and money will be able to set up an “animation studio” locally: an office at which to write a script, hire character designers, storyboard artists, etc., and record the voices. Then subcontract the actual animation production to a pen-for-hire studio that may be on the other side of the world. Then get back everything for the post-production: marrying the animation to the voice recording, adding a sound-effects track, music, etc. By that time the movie’s distribution should have been finalized; with a major cinematic distributor like Paramount or Warner Bros. (I’ve lost track of all the distributors that DreamWorks Animation has switched between over the past two decades), or a minor distributor like Magnolia Pictures. Having your own giant production studio with animators, an ink-&-paint staff, or CGI animators, high-powered computer-cameras, is no longer necessary.
One of Toonz’s Indian TV commercials: