Small Foot, Big Heart
Smallfoot has the rare distinction of being based on an unpublished children’s book. How the producers of the film got a hold of a book that never came out is beyond yours truly but I am glad that they did.
The book in question is called Yeti Tracks by Sergio Pablos and, while it may never have been released, Sergio himself is credited for coming up with another CG animated film franchise you might have heard of – Universal’s Despicable Me?
Smallfoot is a 2018 American computer-animated musical comedy film produced by the Warner Animation Group and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It was built on an $80-million budget and managed to return a healthy $214-million gross at the global box office. It comes in at a run time of 96-minutes.
The story centers on the concept of an isolated yeti tribe high in the Himalayas who, in a rare twist of fate, considers human (smallfoots) mythical. However, rather than just build upon this little switch on convention, Smallfoot presents its viewer with an entire yeti communal civilization complete with castes, a governing body, dogma and some pretty interesting job duties.
Protagonist yeti Migo (Channing Tatum) has a chance encounter with a human and discovers that reporting his experience to his village is the fast-track to having both his sanity and credibility sullied so he embarks upon a mission with the help of a few outcast believers to capture a smallfoot and return with it to the mountain top to so as to put the legend to rest once and for all.
However, while one might expect this to be a tale of our own bigfoot mythology in reverse, Migo actually manages to succeed in his task only to open a whole new can of worms ultimately revealing the history of his people’s culture and the threat humanity imposes upon it.
These may sound like heavy themes for a children’s film but the truth of the matter is the presentation is such where it never overwhelms. In fact, its frequent and fantastic musical numbers (including everything from a remix of Under Pressure performed by James Corden to an original rap from Common (who voices the yeti village leader) to a catchy Disneyesque theme by Zendaya called Wonderful Life) do their part to keep the plot moving along for even the youngest viewers. Adults, who might otherwise tire of the sticky sweet visuals and slapstick moments, will appreciate the depth in the underlying plot as some of the reveals are genuinely interesting.
If there is a downside to the whole ambitious nature of the plot, though, it just may come in the form of an ending that focuses a little harder on wrapping everything up neatly than it does exploring the lasting repercussions of what boils down to an entire culture’s belief system collapsing. Younger viewers will, of course, be far more forgiving of such peccadilloes but those of us who were genuinely intrigued with the intricacies of how this society functioned will feel a bit let down that song and dance trump such concerns as a dishonest political leader, the collapse of the government, the reveal of a falsified belief system etc. Or maybe I’m just reading too far into it.
All in all Smallfoot is a very enjoyable romp from start to finish. It’s bright and clean with gorgeous animation and textures, the casting is spot on and the humor is layered so that viewers of all ages can find something to inspire a chuckle.
Perhaps Smallfoot’s biggest struggle comes in the form of differentiating itself from a host of sasquatch-themed animated features that came to market around the same time: 2018’s The Son of Bigfoot, 2019’s The Missing Link and DreamWorks’ 2019 Abominable. If you can keep them all sorted, however, Smallfoot is certainly worth the virtual trip to the Himalayas.