The Wild Steve "Spaz" Williams

The Wild Steve "Spaz" Williams
Okay, so in Disney world it takes at least four credited writers to come up with a plot that’s indistinguishable from any number of recent animated hits (including the father-searching-for-lost-son of Finding Nemo, and the zoo-animals-let-loose-in-mother-Africa of Madagascar). At least they did a decent job of pirating this brisk, likeable script: it clips lucidly along with just enough pratfalls for the kids and socio-cultural zingers for the grownups to keep everyone happy.

The movie is cleverly cast and includes an amusing cameo from Don Cherry as a sports-announcing penguin. Kiefer Sutherland convincingly voices daddy lion Samson, whose clumsy put-down of adolescent son Ryan (voiced by Greg Cipes) sends the cub on an accidental African adventure. Dad hastens to his rescue, bringing along the usual cast of misfits, including a totally brilliant Eddie Izzard in the role of the bumbling koala Nigel.

Compensating for the hey-ho script, Disney made a smart move putting Steve "Spaz” Williams at the helm. A graduate of the Sheridan College animation program, he’s worked as an animator or visual effects supervisor on some really top stuff, including The Mask and Jurassic Park. The Wild is his first feature directing credit but it won’t be his last: this is a guy who knows how to use animation to its greatest effect, and the rollout of gags and wows prove that he loves his métier.

The animation and rendering, courtesy of Toronto’s C.O.R.E. Feature Animation, are truly superb. The characters and backgrounds are detailed and fluid, and special kudos to the lighting crew for the nuanced, multi-layered lighting in every shot. With that kind of talent in house, all C.O.R.E. needs to become the next Pixar is access — not to Disney, but to a couple of great scripts of its own. (Buena Vista)