Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures.
Spoiler-Free Review of Smallfoot
Smallfoot is the story of a young Yeti named Migo, who lives high up in the Himalayas above the clouds. He and the rest of his kind live in blissful ignorance, believing that the world ends beyond the clouds and that Yetis are completely alone… until he sees a human, or as Yetis call them, the mythical “smallfoot.” Migo tries to tell his fellow Yetis of his discovery, but since the existence of Smallfoot, and life beyond their village, threatens to shake up the delicate structure on which they’ve built their society, Migo is banished. But a secret society of Yetis believes in Migo and the existence of Smallfoot. Migo goes on a journey beyond the clouds into the human village to bring back evidence of human life, and he comes face to face with Percy, a human nature reporter looking a big story to revitalize his career, and he thinks he’s found it in Migo. As the two learn to communicate, they also learn how wrong they’ve been about each other, and Migo discovers the dark secrets of the Yetis’ history with humans.
The story goes much deeper than animated films typically go, tapping into themes as heavy as the nature of truth and standing up for your beliefs. The moral quandary that Migo goes through in having to decide between what he’s been taught and the truth he’s discovered is a difficult concept for many people older than the intended demographic. However, while the moral may be deep, the presentation is just as whimsical and light and fun-loving as the other films in Warner Animation Group’s canon.
Channing Tatum is as charming as ever as the voice of Migo. His performance as a lovable goofball is underscored by his genuine desire to do the right thing, even when it means changing his entire perfect life. Zendaya as Meechee, the daughter of the Yeti leader, and James Corden as Percy both give excellent performances as supporting characters. Common also stands out as the Stonekeeper, the steadfast leader of the Yetis and protector of their greatest secrets and commandments.
Highlighting the fun story is a truly entertaining soundtrack full of original songs sung by the cast. Tatum in particular gives a surprisingly great performance in the film’s opening number “Perfection,” while Zendaya’s single “Wonderful Life” has enough pop in it to stay in your head after you leave the theater. Other musical numbers of note include James Corden performing “Percy’s Pressure,” and original song set to a karaoke track of Queen’s “Under Pressure,” and Common’s rap song (as Stonekeeper), “Let It Lie.”
The film is colorful and vibrant with enough music and slapstick physical humor to entertain your little ones throughout the entire film. For adults, there’s a powerful message and a lesson to be learned, no matter if you’re young or old. Or if you’re human or Yeti.
Smallfoot Cast Interviews
Leading up to the release of Warner Animation Group’s new film Smallfoot, I got the change to sit down with some of the stars and the director of the film to discuss their experience. And, as luck would have it, their was a perfect venue right in the middle of Hollywood for the event: The Smallfoot Yeti Village!
Sitting in the snowy atmosphere of the Yeti Village above the clouds, we talked first talked with actors Channing Tatum (voice of Migo) and Common (voice of the Stonekeeper). The two of them got to share some insight on their respective characters and what made these characters so appealing.
“Migo is just a believer, you know?” said Tatum. “He’s a believer and he’s truthful probably first, and that’s why I think he was kind of the perfect person to have to go on this journey and to be kind of tasked with this scary thing.
“He thought his world was perfect. And it’s easy to know that change needs to happen if things aren’t good. But in his mind, things were literally perfect, and he didn’t want anything to change. And when all of a sudden, something comes into his world that completely knocks out a pillar of truth in his life, everything is questionable now […] It takes a really strong person and a brave person to just go out past the breakers and see what’s out there.”
Common, in his role as the stern Stonekeeper, who represented the way of life Migo tries to push against, appreciated the character’s ability to keep the peace in his village.
“The Stonekeeper had this thing,” he said, “where even when things were a little bit in turmoil, he knew how to try to keep things on the right track. He had that charisma to try to still bring all the Yetis together. He just had a leadership quality that I liked.”
“And he could rap,” Common laughed, “so I liked the Stonekeeper!”
Bringing up the subject of the musical aspect of the film, Tatum and Common revealed that the decision to make the film a musical happened late in production, after the actors had been cast! For Common, even rapping came along with new challenges.
“The new thing for me was usually I write the songs that I’m rapping. That’s part of what hip-hop culture and rap has been. But, it was new for me to work someone else’s cadence. […] You would think, ‘Ah, Common is just going to come in and just lay the rap and it’s done.’ But, no, I had to find the way the Stonekeeper’s rap was.”
“I only recorded that song, like, probably a month ago,” said Tatum, referring to the film’s opening number, “Perfection.” After working on the song, and practicing with professional singers on the track, Tatum as well had to work Migo’s voice into the song.
“You still have to tell the story,” said Tatum. “You still have to be the character, and that was another way for me to just sort of be a little more comfortable with kind of the rough parts.”
We then got to speak with the Karey Kirkpatrick, the director and one of the screenwriters of the film, who went over the long, storied history of the film.
“From soup to nuts, it was about six years I think from the first day that they decided to make it to release date. […] You start with a premise, and this was a really good premise, which is Bigfoot in reverse. And then a couple of drafts of the script are written, and then they go into storyboards, and you start storyboarding. So animation doesn’t really come to life until you start to watch it in storyboard.
“And then you’ll watch that iteration, […] and then what often happens is it’s like, what if it’s not that but this. […] And then you watch those. And then oftentimes people who are involved in those early iterations get burnt out and lose their way, and so you bring in other people. […] Things weren’t quite adding up, and so they just asked me to come in as a writer and take a look at it, and would I do a draft. And then, once I started landing on something that everybody was happy with, they asked me if I would direct it.”
Kirkpatrick also reiterated the fact of how late in the process the musical aspect was added.
“They didn’t decide to make it a musical until January of 2017.”
Kirkpatrick explained that the decision to make the film into a musical came from Allison Abbate, the Executive Vice President of WAG who came on in the middle of production. Abbate, being a fan of musicals, had seen Kirkpatrick’s broadway musical Something Rotten!and felt that music could really help to elevate the animated movie.
Kirkpatrick also expressed his love for the challenges in coming up with new musical conventions, such as the Stonekeeper’s dramatic rap number, and James Corden’s comedic number, “Percy’s Pressure.”
“We really were just in a karaoke bar and we were playing around with different stuff. But we said, what if a song starts that we know, but it’s suddenly a different melody and lyric. And then it just popped into my head that ‘Under Pressure’ is exactly what he’s feeling at that moment.”
Kirkpatrick wrapped up the interviews by giving his take on the lessons of the film.
“Kids go to movies and thy think, oh, to be a hero, just slay a dragon, to blow up the Death Star, and that takes courage. Courage is actually standing up and doing the right thing when it’s hard. To stand up and actually tell the truth when that is not the popular thing to do.
“To do the right thing is remarkably hard. And I think they should know that to stand up for a friend who’s being bullied, to do little things like that, that’s courage. That’s heroism.”
But before we all left and descended down the past the clouds of the mountain, Kirkpatrick shared a bit of trivia with us, when asked about the character names.
“Migo is a Nepalese word for Yeti, and so is Meechee.”
Smallfoot is Now in Theaters!
Smallfoot is now playing in theaters! You can find tickets here.