Valiant is a 2005 British–American computer-animated epic adventure comedy film produced by Vanguard Animation, Ealing Studios and Odyssey Entertainment, and released by Entertainment Film Distributors in the United Kingdom on March 25, 2005 and by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States on August 19, 2005. Set in May of the year 1944, it tells the story of a group of war pigeons during World War II. Reviews of Valiant were mixed. The film is based on a story by George Webster, and inspired by true stories of hundreds of pigeons that helped the soldiers in the war.
North American theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gary Chapman|
|Story by||George Webster|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Box office||$61.7 million|
In May 1944, 5 years since the declaration of World War II, three Royal Homing Pigeon Service war pigeons are flying across the English Channel with the White Cliffs of Dover in sight, carrying vital messages to Great Britain. Despite the poor weather conditions the pigeons have nearly reached their destination. They are, however, suddenly ambushed and attacked by a German enemy peregrine falcon named General Von Talon (Tim Curry); two of the pigeons are instantly killed, yet the third, Mercury (John Cleese), is taken as a prisoner of war.
Elsewhere, a small wood pigeon named Valiant (Ewan McGregor) is watching an Allied forces propaganda film in his local bar (an overturned rowing boat) in West Nestington. He is best friends with Felix (John Hurt), an old seagull with a peg leg and the local barman. Wing Commander Gutsy (Hugh Laurie), a war hero flies into the bar, informing everyone that signups are scheduled the next day in Trafalgar Square, London. In General Von Talon's lair, Mercury resists interrogation by his captors. Valiant flies off to London, bidding his mother and Felix goodbye. In London, Valiant meets an unhygienic slacker pigeon named Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), who is being hunted by two magpie thugs, after having tricked them at a shell game. In order to escape the thugs, he signs up with Valiant.
The recruits, Valiant, Bugsy, Lofty (Pip Torrens), an intellectual red pigeon, and Toughwood and Tailfeather (Dan Roberts and Brian Lonsdale), two muscular but dim-witted twin brothers, form Royal Homing Pigeon Service Squad F, and are sent to a recruit training facility. Under the command of Sergeant Monty (Jim Broadbent), who declares that he will toughen them up for the RHPS, the training begins. Meanwhile, Von Talon and his henchmen, Cufflingk (Rik Mayall) and Underlingk (Michael Schlingmann), try numerous attempts to discover the message's departure location. However Mercury refuses to tell, despite the tortures inflicted upon him, such as irritating him with yodeling music and injecting him with truth serum, before Mercury accidentally reveals the location: Saint-Pierre.
Throughout the training, Valiant develops a crush on Victoria (Olivia Williams), the camp's nursing dove. Eventually, Gutsy arrives and tells the Sergeant that the recruits need to leave the next morning, despite their training being vastly incomplete. Bugsy, however, decides not to go on the "highly dangerous" mission and flees the camp that night. The next morning, Valiant and the others prepare to leave and start to board the plane headed for France, but not before Bugsy shows up at the last second. The journey quickly becomes dangerous, as the plane is caught in the midst of dogfight. Their plane sustains heavy damage and the pigeons soon have to bail out, in boxes equipped with parachutes. The pigeons are dropped from the plane; however a technical malfunction causes Gutsy's box to fail to deploy. The plane goes down in an inferno of flames, presumably killing Gutsy in the resulting explosion.
In France, the pigeons meet Charles de Girl (Sharon Horgan) and Rollo (Buckley Collum), two mice from the French Resistance, Mouse Division, who lead them to Saint-Pierre, where they receive the message they have been ordered to deliver. They soon come under attack by Von Talon's henchmen, resulting in Bugsy and the message being captured. Von Talon takes the message from Bugsy and decides to lock him up and kill him later, planning to personally deliver the message to the German High Commander himself. Valiant and the troops follow Bugsy to the falcon's bunker, where they discover that Gutsy has survived the plane crash. Valiant takes advantage of his small size and sneaks into the bunker through the gun barrel, retrieves the message, and frees Bugsy and Mercury. Unfortunately, the falcons witness the escape and give chase. As Gutsy and the others fight off Von Talon's henchmen, Valiant flies to London to deliver the message, followed by Von Talon.
After a climactic chase by the falcon, Valiant hides in the cottage where he lives, where he is caught by Von Talon again. With the help of Felix and the resident pigeons, Valiant outwits Von Talon by getting a giant hook caught on his medals, leaving him to be beaten by the water wheel. Valiant delivers the message, and upon receiving it, a change of plans is made; they land in Normandy. After receiving the Dickin Medal, Squad F returns to the local bar in West Nestington, where Valiant reunites and shares a romantic kiss with Victoria.
- Ewan McGregor as Valiant
- Ricky Gervais as Bugsy
- Pip Torrens as Lofty Thaddeus Worthington
- Dan Roberts as Tailfeather
- Brian Lonsdale as Toughwood
- John Cleese as Mercury
- Olivia Williams as Victoria
- John Hurt as Felix
- Annette Badland as Elsa
- Jim Broadbent as Sergeant Monty
- Hugh Laurie as Wing Commander Gutsy
- Tim Curry as General Von Talon
- Rik Mayall as Cufflingk
- Michael Schlingmann as Underlingk
- Sharon Horgan as Charles de Girl
- Buckley Collum as Rollo
- Sean Samuels as Jacques
Valiant sets the Second World War as its backdrop, and thus the film has various factual references to World War II. McGregor himself called it "a good old-fashioned war movie." The film's use of World War II imagery is apparent throughout; for instance, the villainous characters in the film hold obvious links to the Nazis, although Nazism is never specifically mentioned, nor are Nazi symbols ever overtly visually depicted - edited symbols are however discreetly inserted. For example, General Von Talon wears a large Reichsadler badge that depicts the German eagle, taken from the coat of arms of Germany. Yet this version, unlike the Hoheitszeichen (Nazi Germany's national insignia), has the eagle grasping two bones, whereas the Hoheitszeichen depicts the eagle clutching a swastika. Furthermore, the film's primary antagonist, Von Talon, holds specific links to Adolf Hitler. For example, Von Talon states whilst holding Mercury as a prisoner of war that he would not eat Mercury, as he is a vegetarian, a direct reference to Adolf Hitler's vegetarianism.
179 modelers, animators, shaders, texturers began work on Valiant at Ealing Studios, west London. Valiant was the second computer-animated film to be made in the United Kingdom, after The Magic Roundabout. John H. Williams of Vanguard Animation stated "we knew a lot of European animators who had worked at Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks, and were interested in going back to Europe. We thought it would be important to be the first company to produce a CGI feature fully made in Europe with a major studio attached." Williams stated this before he knew about The Magic Roundabout. He also explained the attraction to making the film in Britain, saying "It would have been $3 million cheaper to make in LA but we had $10-12 million in tax and co-production money that we were able to attract because we made it here." Additionally, the bonus of locating to Britain was that the UK Film Council offered Valiant a record-breaking £2.6 million grant. Valiant's budget of $35,000,000 is considered low in comparison to other CGI productions, with films which Williams had previously worked on, such as Shrek 2 having a budget of $150,000,000.
Gary Chapman made his directorial debut with Valiant. Initially hired for character and production design during project development, and ultimately hired to direct the film after extensive working with story development, writers, and producers. Chapman was subsequently storyboard artist, designing characters for the Vanguard Animation movie Space Chimps.
The film, on a tight budget and with a relatively small group of animators, was created in 106 weeks, in what The Times described as "a piece of guerrilla film-making" in comparison to the other CGI animated films created by major studios. At least 5 computer animators worked together for every scene of the 76-minute film, working on effects such as color, movement and shading. As a result of the low number of animators, some critics called the film's animation "amateurish-looking". However, other reviewers stated that the film was "nicely animated".
Tom Jacomb, line producer for Vanguard Animation, stated that the biggest difficulties whilst making the film was the detail required for the birds' feathers. He stated that "most — no, all — our problems were feathers", and described them as a "misery in computer animation". Director Gary Chapman insisted that each bird must look distinctive, and as a result, the pigeons came in various colors, including beige, blue, yellow, red and grey. He also requested that each bird be dressed in clothing, and clothing accessories appear throughout the film on characters, usually hats, belts, and military medals and, in the case of the villainous Von Talon, a black leather cape. However, before Valiant, Bugsy, Lofty Thaddeus Worthington, Tailfeather, Toughwood complete their military training, they appear entirely clothes-free, equipped with no military regalia.
Valiant received mixed reviews from critics. The film received a 31% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 112 reviews with an average rating of 5/10. The site's consensus reads "Valiant has a good collection of voice talents, but the story is strictly by-the-numbers." The film did business of $19,478,106 in the U.S. and $42,268,782 internationally. This gives it a worldwide total of $61,746,888, which is considered successful, but low by CGI film standards. The film held the record for lowest box office of a CGI animated film, until its record was later beaten in 2006 by Doogal, the American re-dubbed version of The Magic Roundabout.
The musical score was composed by George Fenton and mostly performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestral music is in keeping with the military theme of the film, such as through "March of the R.H.P.S.", performed by The Central Band of the Royal Air Force. Tracks were recorded at AIR Recording Studios and at Angel Recording Studios in London and at Right Track Studios, New York. The only track not composed by Fenton is "Shoo Shoo Baby", performed by R&B girl group Mis-Teeq; originally sung by the popular American wartime group, the Andrews Sisters. Although "Shoo Shoo Baby" was the only track on the album containing lyrics, it was not the only lyrical track used in the film - "Non, je ne regrette rien" by Édith Piaf is played in one scene in the film, despite it being recorded in 1960, 16 years after 1944, when the film was set.
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