I just finished watching Valiant on TV and thought I'd share my thoughts on the film.
Valiant is a British animated film (produced in 2005 by Vanguard Animation and Odyssey Entertainment) about homing pigeons in the war set in 1944. It follows a pigeon character named Valiant who hears about the Royal Homing Pigeon Service and wants to do his part and volunteer.
It was cheaply produced (Wiki) and worked on by a small team and it shows. I wanted to like this film because I like films that experiment with different perspectives, but I will admit I found it hard to find something to like. There were some great actors whose voices were featured in the film (such as one of my favourites, Hugh Laurie) but it felt like they were used to promote the film and carry it forward, rather than combining their efforts with great character acting and film direction.
I did like the start of the film where it showed a pigeon version of war propaganda and idolisation of the war effort. It set up the film for the audience to immediately understand that we're in for a war story. I thought it would be interesting to see how the views of the pigeons would be portrayed but unfortunately... it didn't go that way.
I appreciate the animation effort. I've heard how difficult it is to model and animate winged characters, especially when trying to allow for human-like actions and emotions. It does mention in the Wikipedia article I linked previously that the process is a 'misery'. However, I do feel it needed more time. The models didn't work greatly with the animation and it didn't look great.
The scripting was made up of too many 'jokes' (the film is described to be a Comedy but frankly, I didn't find it funny) and attempts to be funny so that when it was time to be serious it could not be taken seriously, taking away a lot of emotional connection with the characters. The end displayed a fact about that 54 Dickins Medals had been awarded to animals in war, 32 of them being pigeons. I felt that was a nice touch but it contrasted too much with the film that had been goofy up until that point and it was hard to tell if it was part of the fiction or fact if you didn't know.
The most engaging characters were the two French mice. They were appealing in looks and personality and were a welcome break from the antics of the pigeons. I think the biggest problem with the pigeons was that they didn't change. I assume the training was supposed to toughen them up and make them into MEN and all that but when the pigeons came out the other end there didn't seem to be much difference. Yes, they didn't complete the training but they didn't seem to be progressing anywhere as characters. They remained nothing more than comedic value.
I really wanted to like this film because it was British (Go Blighty!) and I do like war films. I especially like seeing films explore a different perspective on things. But the story just didn't do it for me. The lack of character development took away the emotional success for Valiant and there were a few holes in the story that made a few things unclear (such as, why was it important for pigeons to carry messages and why did they want to keep it away from the falcons, other than because they were the enemy?), which in turn took away the climax. Perhaps the humour was lost on me a bit.. though I'm not so sure because I like childish humour and can even appreciate toilet humour if done well.
Perhaps it was because Ricky Gervais featured in it and I find the man more annoying than funny...