THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES (Le Grand Mechant Renard et Autres Contes). Animated film, voiced in English by Giles New, Justin Edwards, Adrian Edmondson, Bill Bailey, Celia Imrie, and others. Directed by Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert. G (General). 83 min.
This French-Belgium, animated comedy is adapted from the comic books of the co-director of the film, Benjamin Renner. Most of the film’s content is drawn from Renner’s book, “The Big Bad Fox”, published in 2015. The co-directors of the movie, Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert were jointly responsible for the award-winning, animated movie, “Ernest & Celestine” (2012).
In the film, three different stories are linked by a loosely structured narrative. The film was originally voiced in French, and then dubbed into English. The Big Bad Fox is voiced by English actor, Giles New. The original voice of the Fox was that of French actor, Guillaume Darnault.
The narrative communicates the misadventures of a wily but good-hearted Fox, an irritable Mother Hen, a meddlesome Duck, a controlling Pig, and a sleepy Rabbit. It is divided into three segments. The first segment is “A Baby to Deliver”; the second is “The Big Bad Fox”; and the third is “We Must Save Christmas”.
The film commences in a theatre which shows a group of animals preparing for a show. The host of the show is the Big Bad Fox of the title, and he informs the audience that he will tell three different stories, all of which take place on a French farm, full of temperamental animals. In the Tales, the Fox plays an attentive guardian to a family of chicks; the Rabbit acts like a Stork; and the Duck wants to be Santa Clause. The play commences, after the resident animals tell the Fox they are ready, and each segment has a moral to communicate.
In Story 1, a Stork leaves a baby by the name of Pauline in the hands of three farm animals who try to deliver the baby to his true family. The second story, tells of the initial animosity and growing attachment between the Fox and a brood of chickens who have a short-tempered mother. The Fox ends up showing the chickens how to cope with predators, by defending them against a marauding Wolf. The third, shows Santa Clause visiting the farm to deliver presents at Christmas, after the animals on the farm mistakenly think they have accidentally killed him. The final credits to the movie show the characters in the film gathered again on stage of the same theatre as before, which returns viewers to the original setting. Scripting for the film throughout has some clever, adult-appeal touches like a Santa Clause, who needs to travel on highways that don’t have a toll, and the middle of the credits unexpectedly providing the recipe for a “large (tasty French) crepe”.
The animation style of the film is innovative, and will appeal to both adults and children. The brush-work style of the drawings is loose and hand-drawn, with splashes of water-colour to fill the gaps. The illustrations look deceptively simple, but are crafted cleverly to make it look to viewers that someone is turning over the pages of a children’s book.The action linking the various characters runs at a fast pace; and each character is drawn expressively in a delightful way.
The format of the film contrasts pointedly with the sophistication of modern, animated movies which typically entertain viewers in high-tech style. This movie’s animation has an old fashioned look, and offers a beguiling alternative to computerised animation. In the film, the emotions which characterise the figures come through vividly - the Duck is interfering; the Pig is bossy; the Rabbit is lazy; and the Fox (in segment 2, for example) learns to supply companionship to his chicks as their newly adopted parent, thus giving viewers a moral message to take home.
This is an animated movie in traditional style that has special appeal in the skill of its hand-drawn crafting and its moral tone. Parents are bound to respond positively to the kind of illustrations they see so often in books they buy for their children. Observing this film is a little like watching a talented artist or author with a brush, or pen in hand, drawing at high-speed, and keeping a watchful eye on a moral message to communicate.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released May 23, 2019