Have you ever paid much attention to the little things in nature? What if you knew that there was a constant battle waged between the forces of life and death, and the future of the forest depended on it?
In the new animated film “Epic,” from Blue Sky Studios, the war is waged between the skilled warrior leaf men, and the boggans, wicked creatures seeking to destroy the forest. The leaf men are the samurai-like protectors of the forest folk and Queen Tara, the “life of the forest”. On the day that the Queen decides to choose a pod that would become her heir, a swarm of boggans takes the leaf men by surprise and fatally wounds the queen. While she lays on the forest floor, a teenage girl named M.K. (Mary Katherine) stumbles upon the queen, and is magically transported into the world of the leaf men. The queen bestows the pod to her, asking her to guard it with her life, as the future of the natural world depends on it. M.K. embarks on a journey of wonder and self realization as she and the leaf men fight to keep the pod alive and out of the clutches of the boggan army. Along the way, M.K. also connected with her mad scientist father who has been fascinated with the natural world and tried to uncover its many secrets.
The movie Epic is the highlight animation film of the year! The visual effects are absolutely magical, especially scenes with the stunning armored hummingbird riders. What sets this film apart from the rest is the magic, wonder, and enchantment that it brings to the audience. This movie makes you pay more attention to little things in nature. Nowadays, people are too focused on their lives and their work in the digital world, and rarely pay much attention to the natural world around them.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Epic’s director Chris Wedge, who has worked on this film for four years, collaborating with William Joyce (whom I interviewed for his Oscar-winning “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” in 2012). “Bill and I worked on this years ago. It’s never based on his book, we created an entirely original story, but borrowed the notion of Leaf Men in the forest, and created cool samuri-like warriors riding on hummingbirds.” said director Wedge, “My ambition was to make a big action adventure movie, in a cool place. Most of previous Blue Sky movies are comedies. I want to change that a little bit.”
I loved the movie and give it 4.5 starfish, it’s “Perrific!”. The snail and slug provided great comic relief too. However, it still has a few flaws. For example, everything in the forest was recorded in a cave of scrolls, but in the film, it never showed anybody that wrote the scrolls, though director Wedge said the moths did it. Also, in one scene, a hummingbird carried M.K, Nod the leaf man, a slug, and a snail. Hummingbirds are not strong enough to carry much weight: their bodies are maximized for speed and lightness. They even have no bladders, just to lessen their weight.
Director Wedge and I had a spirited, friendly debate about how much weight hummingbirds can carry. I said I don’t see them carry anything in the wild besides their nector. He said, “next time you see hummingbirds, put some slugs on their back!” I love the idea, although it would be challenging to try! I also challenged him about how hummingbirds can fly in the dark of night, especially when the boggans blocked the moon, as hummingbirds have poor night vision. “But their riders see very well and can steer them!” I gave credit for that answer.
I asked the director what new things he learned from making this film. “I learned that my kids don’t scared easily. I could have made some scenes scarier.” he said, “I remember being a kid, I didn’t like the movies for kids. I thought they were boring. I wanted to make movies that are more exciting, with relationships that are more interesting.” He said he liked M.K. and her father Dagda’s relationship. In fact, in the movie, I never saw M.K.’s father’s name mentioned anywhere. They could have used some props like a license plate or letter for that.
Director Wedge became interested in animation at 12. “I started making little animation films with my dad’s super 8 movie camera. I did everything back then. I got bored with drawing by hand, and started making stop motion animation, and never stopped.” For young, aspiring animator and directors, he gave this advice: “Work as hard as you can. Don’t just think about it. Do it, make your movies and never stop!”
I highly recommend “Epic” to all age groups. It’s a thrilling adventure with magic, fantasy and a lot of heart.
The moral: Pay attention to the magical natural world around you, and you will be surprised and delighted by what you find.
Copyright 2013 by Perry S. Chen
About Perry Chen:
Perry S. Chen is a 12-year-old award-winning child film critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 7th grade from San Diego. He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc. He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog.
Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his most personal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. Zhu Shen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancer researcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after a long, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to support Perry’s animation film:
Perry won an “Excellence in Journalism Award” from San Diego Press Club in 2010 and 2011 for his movie and restaurant reviews, an “Excellence Writer Award” from “We Chinese in America” Magazine in 2010 for his movie review column. Perry is widely recognized as an authoritative spokesperson about movies for his generation, and appears frequently at red carpet movie premieres, awards, and film festivals, interviewing prominent directors from such films as Toy Story 3, Up, How to Train Your Dragon. He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation in Hollywood. Perry and his mom Dr. Zhu Shen are featured in a new book about parenting and youth entrepreneurship, “The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids,” published in Aug 2011.
Perry’s first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” in collaboration with animation legend Bill Plympton, won multiple film festival awards and has been screened at over 30 international film festivals, now available on iTunes. More info: http://ingridpitt.co.uk 
Watch “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” on iTunes: