If you’re looking for something a little less computer generated for your kids this Christmas, this English language version of the 2017 French film Le Grand Méchant Renard et Autres Contes might be just the ticket. On the other hand, children raised on frenetic fare like Hotel Transylvania might find it a little slow and simple, despite the fact that you’re getting three (short) stories for the price of one.
Of course, it’s not as CG-phobic as it looks; the characters and background might be hand-drawn but the animation itself was done on computers. But this is definitely a production at the more traditional end of the market; if you enjoyed Renner’s previous big-screen outing Ernest et Célestine, you’ll know what to expect. Originally conceived as a series of half-hour episodes for television, Benjamin Renner and his team added a linking conceit and released the film theatrically, and now it’s out on DVD with the likes of Adrian Edmondson, Bill Bailey and Celia Imrie doing the UK dub.
The stories take place in and around a farmyard, the eponymous fox (New) presenting a wraparound ‘theatre production’ which, frankly, doesn’t add an awful lot. In ‘A Baby to Deliver’, a lazy stork crashes into the yard claiming to be too badly injured to carry on and deliver its package, thus leaving it to pig (Edwards) and his two rather hare-brained associates, rabbit (Edmondson) and duck (Bailey), to get baby Pauline to her new parents in Avignon. Next up is the title story, in which fox and his friend wolf (Goode) hatch a plan to steal some eggs and raise the chicks till they’re plump enough to eat, until the newborns imprint upon the fox as their ‘mummy’, that is. Finally we’re back with pig, rabbit and duck, who accidentally destroy a plastic Santa which they mistake for the real thing, and then believe it’s up to them to save Christmas.
There’s nothing too taxing or too involving here, just a very modest set of slightly farcical plots involving some not terribly bright farm animals, and it’s all good-natured fun, mostly dwelling on misunderstandings and fortuitously contrived happy endings. But that’s not to say Renner and his cohorts haven’t been inventive enough to keep things moving along, and the characters are such archetypes of children’s fiction they pretty much write themselves.
The English-language cast does a reasonable job with material that isn’t designed to stretch them, and while the character animations are somewhat basic (and at 12 fps), they’re also endearing in their awkwardness. The backgrounds, however, are mostly quite gorgeous watercolour-style paintings – and the extra feature, in which a handful of children interview the cartoon’s creators (albeit in French, with subtitles), is terrific.
Extras: making of
THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: BENJAMIN RENNER, PATRICK IMBERT / SCREENPLAY: BENJAMIN RENNER, JEAN REGNAUD / STARRING: BILL BAILEY, ADRIAN EDMONDSON, JUSTIN EDWARDS, MATTHEW GOODE, CELIA IMRIE, PHILL JUPITUS, GILES NEW / RELEASE DATE: 26TH NOVEMBER