Hayop Ka! ("You Animal!") is an adult 2D animated film from the Philippines, in which all the characters are anthropomorphic animals. Released in 2020, it was directed by Avid Liongoren, who co-wrote it along with Manny Angeles and Paulle Olivenza, and was produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films.
The story revolves around a cat named Nimfa (played by Angelica Panganiban), who works at a perfume counter in a department store in the city of Manila. She's been living with her boyfriend for over a year, a large, burly mongrel named Roger (played by Robin Padilla) who works as a janitor. She has doubts about their long-term prospects, so when she meets Inigo, a rich, tycoon husky (played by Sam Milby), a love triangle quickly develops. This is a very adult movie! All three want to have an active sexual life, with varying degrees of commitment.
Wish Dragon (trailer) is a computer-animated film from the Sony Pictures Animation International Initiative, a fancy way of saying "international co-production", in this case between Sony and several studios in China. Concept art made the rounds in 2018, and they hoped to finish it in 2019. For whatever reason, it didn't get released until January 15, 2021 - in China - so this review is of the Chinese dub with English subtitles.
A little backstory. When Kung Fu Panda came out in 2008, it had so much artistic attention to cultural detail that China kicked their animation industry into high gear. In the twelve years since then, they've become a powerhouse of animation. Recently, there's been a slow-growing effort to make their films more exportable. Some efforts have fallen flat, like the sadly-overlooked Rock Dog; but with Mosley and Wish Dragon I'm optimistic that there'll be more co-productions to come!
100% Wolf (clip) is a computer-animated comedy film from Australia, released in mid-2020. Based on a 2009 book by Jayne Lyons, the adaptation was directed by Alexs Stadermann, produced by Flying Bark Productions, and it earned $4.6 million. IMDB gives it a score of 5.7 out of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes is similar. It's definitely for kids. Watching it as an adult furry fan, I have mixed feelings about it.
It takes about a quarter of the film's 96-minute running time to set up the story, so minor spoiler warning. There's a pack of werewolves living in modern-day society. Despite keeping it secret to avoid human persecution, on nights of the full moon they parkour around the city like superheroes to help rescue people. The youngest member of the pack's core family, Freddy Lupin, can't wait until he's old enough to become a werewolf too, and has a good relationship with his father, Flasheart, the pack leader.
Until things go wrong. Freddy loses both his father and the pack's sacred moonstone ring. Everyone is devastated. Fast-forward six years. I guess Freddy is being home-schooled? No sign of any friends, and his mother passed away when he was younger. Anyway, the pack still lacks a leader, or "High Howler", although Flasheart's brother, Hotspur, clearly thinks he deserves the position. For now, it's time for Freddy's coming-of-age ceremony, except instead of becoming a wolf, he turns into a poodle. Believing they've offended the Moon spirits, the family tasks Freddy with recovering the ring.
Well, that's over, here are ten movies that managed to come out in 2020, an accomplishment in and of itself; so full marks for that!
The Donkey King (trailer) is a computer-animated comedy film, and the fifth animated feature from Pakistan. Originally released in 2018 in the Urdu language, an English dub was released in 2020. It was written and directed by Aziz Jindani, and produced by Talisman Studios.
It broke box office records in Pakistan, though I'm mystified as to how, because to me it's not a good film. Maybe its target audience had different expectations, or there were cultural reasons, which, if any, have been lost in the English dub. Don't watch this movie.
The premise starts with King Khan, a lion who rules over a city of anthropomorphic animals. He wants to retire, but his son, Prince Shazad, wouldn't be a good replacement. Miss Fitna, his treacherous fox advisor, proposes that a new king should be chosen democratically in an election …which is not how monarchies work. Her plan involves deposing the king so she can manipulate someone in his place, specifically the film's protagonist, a donkey named Mangu.
Before we start talking about the movie, due to the pretty unusual circumstances still happening in the world right now, we need to discuss what options are available to watch it. (With apologies to our non-North American readers, for whom none of this may apply.)
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, streaming has been the obvious or only way to watch movies reviewed by Flayrah. Raya and the Last Dragon, however, isn't free to stream right now. You'll have to pay Disney+'s $29.99 'Premier Access' fee, or buy a ticket at a theater.
Currently, this reviewer recommends the Premier Access route. It's more expensive, but factoring in the ability to re-watch it, group watching, and ongoing pandemic concerns, it feels a safer bet.
Anyway, Raya and the Last Dragon is from Walt Disney Animation Studios; directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, it stars Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu, the titular last dragon.
Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor (trailer) is a 2018 computer-animated children's film. Produced in Pakistan, it's the country's third animated film, made by 3rd World Studios and directed by Uzair Zaheer Khan. Furry fans can skip this one. It's so-so, probably only of interest to young kids, who'll either need to understand Urdu or be able to read subtitles.
The story involves a young boy named Allahyar, creative but shy, raised by a single dad who works as a forest ranger in northern Pakistan. After his father gets knocked unconscious by a hunter, Allahyar rescues Mehru, a young markhor (a species of goat, the country's national animal) and sets out to return her to her family who live on a distant mountain.
Turns out that by showing bravery for a markhor and by having a pure heart, Allahyar fulfills the prophecy of being "The Protector", and gets the ability to speak to animals. They're joined on their journey by Hero, a chukar partridge, and Chakku, a young snow leopard. The hunter, Mani, is on their trail the whole time.
Toonstruck is a 1996 third-person point-and-click adventure game, still available on modern PCs! It's a celebration of cartoon humor, and you can tell a lot of love and effort went into making it. Toony animal side-characters are everywhere.
Originally conceived of in 1993 as a children's game, a decision was made to gear it towards adults instead. Officially it's rated 'T' (Teens) for "Comic mischief, Mild animated violence" - but there is some very adult humor you won't see coming. Virgin Interactive, who made the game, spent over $8 million on it. Some of this was wasted due to changing the engine during development. Otherwise they were able to pay well for its programming, animation and dialog, with (mostly) little executive interference.
The main character of Toonstruck is a burnt-out artist named Drew Blanc, played by Christopher Lloyd, who's been stuck animating The Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show for ten years. When his boss (played by Ben Stein) demands even more rabbits, so he can keep milking the franchise as Fluffy & Friends, Drew despairs - only to find himself accidentally sucked into a cartoon world. His only hope of escape relies on completing a quest to help the locals.
Fairly early on while watching this movie, I came to an epiphany: I really don't like Jerry.
Seriously, he's a jerk. I mean, it'd be one thing if he violently thrashed his onscreen partner, Tom, because, after all, Tom is a cat, and cats eat mice. It'd be self-defense. I don't hate the Road Runner when Wile E. Coyote gets squished yet again, even if do feel sorry for Wile. But Tom rarely seems to have any interest in eating Jerry. Neither is Jerry like Bugs Bunny, who doesn't go looking for trouble. In the old shorts, Jerry frequently attacks Tom first, without provocation.
Take, as an example, how Tom and Jerry meet in their latest movie, released this weekend. Tom is busking in New York City's Central Park, when Jerry rudely interrupts him. Now, Tom is not without his own flaws; he's pretending to be blind to attract more customers, which is not cool. But Jerry doesn't seem to be bothered by this; his beef with Tom is clearly that Tom is making money, and he's not. So, he tries to steal his crowd, and then, in a bout of inevitable slapstick violence, breaks Tom's keyboard, which is clearly important to Tom beyond just a means of money. I'm on Tom's side, here.
Well, anyway, Tom & Jerry is a movie about Tom and Jerry. Tom is a cat. Jerry is a mouse. They starred in a bunch of cartoon shorts together starting in 1940, meaning that 2020 was their 80th anniversary. This movie was supposed to commemorate that milestone, but, well, COVID-19. It's mostly a live-action film; only the animals are animated (it wasn't submitted for consideration in the Academy Awards' 2020 Best Animated Feature category, which it would've qualified for under the extended "awards year", which implies the filmmakers consider it live-action). Besides Tom and Jerry (who are basically mute, and charmingly credited as "Themselves"), the movie stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña.
Mosley (trailer) is a 2019 computer-animated children's film that showed up on furry fandom's radar about six years ago as Beast of Burden. Written and directed by American animator Kirby Atkins, it was a labor of love that had been in various stages of development for over 15 years. The movie was finally brought to life thanks to a collaboration between animation studios in New Zealand and China. I enjoyed it!
The story takes place in an alternative, pre-industrialized Earth, that includes "thoriphants", an intelligent, quadrupedal, elephant-like species forced into servitude by mankind to do labor like horses and donkeys. Fully sentient and able to talk, Mosley, along with his pregnant mate Bera and his young son Rue, are the property of a disgruntled farmer. When Rue discovers a cave with drawings of bipedal, anthropomorphic thoriphants, Mosley must confront the possibility that the legendary tales of the "Uprights" might be true. Soon he'll be on a quest to find out.
Dragon Rider (trailer) is a 2020 computer-animated children's film, a German production (Drachenreiter) whose UK English dub was recently released online. Adapted from a best-selling children's book by Cornelia Funke, it's the story of a young dragon in the modern-day world, searching for a refuge where dragons can stay safe from mankind. Short version: You can skip this one.
The film was directed by Tomer Eshed (Flamingo Pride) who doesn't seem to have worked on anything this big before. The production company, Constantin Film, appears to have outsourced the animation to several studios, so it's not clear if there was a unified vision. The screenplay was adapted by... John R. Smith? Who, according to IMDB and its scoring system, is the genius behind Gnomeo & Juliet (5.9 out of 10), Sherlock Gnomes (5.2), and The Queen's Corgi (4.8).
Spirit of the North is a casual adventure game with light puzzle elements, where you play as a fox accompanied by a spirit. I played the Steam version which was released in May 2020, although it debuted on the Playstation in November 2019. It is listed on Steam as a Windows-only game, but I was able to play it on Linux using Steam Proton without any problems.
Picking up from where the 2020 documentary The Fandom left off, Ash "Coyote" Kreis' new 44-minute film, Hero: A Furry Story takes a deeper look into the fandom's disability community, particularly its less-looked-at subset with cancer and chronic illness, where people have found that fursuiting and its networks can create a source of happiness during a time of pain and illness. Hero is the film's star, a canine-identifying fan, diagnosed with cancer at age 22, who receives a new fursuit from the talent at Waggery Costumes.
As viewers are slowly introduced to all of the different people it takes to make a fursuit, Hero's story demonstrates what furry fans have already come to know: affirming that people in the fandom can be as family, loved ones, and mentors. Pulling itself away from the criticism that Kreis received after The Fandom, this new film's attention to disability, illness, and networked connections provides another interesting gateway into something that will surely be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike.
Cartoon Saloon is an Irish animation studio, and they're absolutely world class. They first gained world attention right out of the gate, when The Secret of Kells became a nominee for Best Animated Feature in the 2009 Academy Awards. It wasn't the first time a foreign movie made it on the list, but it was a surprise for many casual Oscar watchers.
Of course, if you actually watched the movie, it was a no-brainer; it not only deserved to be nominated, it's part of the reason 2009's list of Best Animated Feature nominees is still one of the all time best for the category. Since then, every feature by Cartoon Saloon has been nominated in the category; Tomm Moore, director of The Secret of Kells and now Wolfwalkers, was further personally nominated for Song of the Sea.
Both earlier films feature furry elements, especially Song, which deals with selkies (Cartoon Saloon is also responsible for the very furry, very good Skunk Fu! series). However, with Wolfwalkers, Moore and co-director Ross Stewart have created the studio's most furry-friendly film yet. The titular Wolfwalkers could be considered a variety of werewolf; but this time, they're the good guys.