Disney created a tried and true formula where a social outcast leaves his or her sheltered community, finds a surrogate family and returns to lead his or her people. Smallfoot looks like it’s going to follow that tradition, but it’s got enough twists and a profound message to shake things up.
Migo (Channing Tatum) lives in a yeti village high in the mountains who were raised to believe there is nothing below. When he sees a human in a plane crash, no one believes him. His path crosses with TV host Percy Patterson (James Corden) who sees big ratings in yetis.
Migo does get banished for nonconformity, but doesn’t really find a surrogate family. He finds the smallfoot, but that’s evidence and a vehicle to address misunderstanding. It’s not a new family where he feels at home.
The opening explanation of the stones that essentially form the yeti religion, and a happy song about not questioning your elders, indicate that Smallfoot is going to be about just that. When Migo returns to illuminate his village, he learns it’s a little more complicated than simply telling the truth.
These are pretty complex ideas for kids. They would have started work on Smallfoot years ago but it is entirely relevant to today’s world where you can present facts and people still prefer to believe the comfortable lies.
You may tell a lie to protect people, but Smallfoot presents the good moral that avoiding conflict is not the same as a solution. The truths about humans the stonekeeper (Common) covers up ultimately call on us to be better humans than the ones in history.
It’s also an unsustainable system. The stonekeeper has to keep adding stones to cover up when other lies are disproven.
So yes, these are big concepts illustrated with funny yeti. Frankly, adults probably need this metaphor to get it too because we haven’t done so well as a species.
This all comes in the package of funny yeti slapstick. Migo gets pounded like Wile E. Coyote in the same sort of rhythm of setup and misdirect.
Though everyone speaks English for the audience, the yeti hear humans as gibberish and humans hear yeti roaring. Their interactions show how good intentions can get misunderstood.
I hope kids remember this when they grow up. They can think of Smallfoot before they assume someone they don’t understand is a monster coming to get them.
Beautiful animation illustrates these sequences of enormous yeti crowds dancing together, and the scale of giant yeti in human cities.
You can take your kids to see Smallfoot and have a healthy conversation after. Or, if you’re the type of parent who parks their kids in front of a movie (no judgment, we all have things to do), it’ll do some good parenting while keeping your kids entertained.
Smallfoot is in theaters Friday, September 28.