Smallfoot was a film that I knew existed, but not much else. I knew it was made by Warner Animation Group, the same division that brought us The Lego Movie, and I knew that it had something to do with yetis, but other than that, I didn’t know what to expect. I can safely say that I was pleasantly surprised after viewing it.
(There will be mild spoilers below.)
Smallfoot takes place in the mountaintops of the Himalayas wherein thrives a civilization of yetis. The protagonist yeti is Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum. He’s the son of the village gong ringer, Dorgle, voiced by Danny DeVito. It’s Dorgle’s duty to catapult himself against a gong every morning to wake up the “giant snail in the sky” (the Sun) Why does he think this is the way the Sun works? Because the village’s legal stones say so!
The stones have inscriptions detailing what the yetis must believe in and are kept and interpreted by the Stonekeeper, voiced by Common. Some of the beliefs inscribed into the stones include the fact that the yetis’ mountain is carried along the backs of woolly mammoths and the village must continuously send ice cubes down below so the mammoths don’t get thirsty and drop their village.
The villagers generally don’t question the stones and when they do, they’re taught to suppress these questions as much as possible. Migo is an ardent believer in the stones until one day he meets a “smallfoot” (human being), a creature which the stones say doesn’t exist. He’s then ostracized from his village and promises not to return until he can find a “smallfoot” from down below in order to exonerate himself.
I dunno what I was expecting from this film, but it definitely wasn’t criticism of cults! Some people view it as criticism of religion, in general, but I see it more as criticism of cults or societies where the “laws” are accessible only by a select few rather than by every believer in the cause.
Another surprise to me was that the film is a musical! I mean, I probably should have assumed it would be what with Zendaya and Common lending their voices to characters, but the thought never even occurred to me. There are even musical numbers performed by Channing Tatum and James Corden. One song, in particular, Let It Lie, a song wherein Migo finds out the truth about his society, is one that I hoped would get an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, but alas didn’t.
The animation is also really nice! They really capture the colors of this icy land as well as the fluid fast-paced movements of the characters when necessary! I also enjoyed the voice performances with Channing Tatum and LeBron James surprising me with their performances and James Corden giving his best voice performance amongst the plethora of animated films he’s been doing recently!
Did the film have problems? Yeah, I think the pacing gets problematic at times. Like the amount of time it takes for Migo to be welcomed back into his community after being ostracized was surprisingly rather quick. Also some of the songs aren’t particularly memorable upon the first viewing.
But overall, Smallfoot is an animated film that’s worth checking out, even if only to get you thinking a bit. I was fortunate enough (via my connections with the Rotoscopers website), to interview Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, the director and songwriters, respectively, of this film. Check out a transcript of that interview here!