By: Addison Wylie
Sometimes, films directed at children – very, very young children – can be recommended based on how bright the visuals are. If the entertainment isn’t stimulating through its story, the film will at least stimulate the senses through its colour palette.
That’s sort of the case with The Hero of Color City, a mediocre kids film with not a whole lot to offer. Frank Gladstone’s kiddie film is possibly the most literal case of this type of recommendation. The colours don’t just fill the background. They’re actual characters!
A box of crayons come to life every night their owner Ben goes to bed. Brown sounds off a role call, and all the different colours fall in to line including Blue (voiced by Wayne Brady), Red (voiced by Rosie Perez), and an assortment of other shades. They all have one-note personalities that match their visible colour. For instance, Black is a dark downer, and Yellow is afraid of everything.
I won’t tell you what Refried Bean does, or maybe I will. A note to screenwriters Jess Kedward, J.P. McCormick, Kristy Peart, and Rich Raczelowski: Does a colour like Refried Bean exist in real life? Or, has it been invented for you guys to break up the pacing by cutting the cheese?
Anyway, every night, they all hop into their crayon box and are whisked away to Color City. Color City is a small community that allows the crayons to unwind after being used by Ben all day. There’s a spa, a town square, a dock and a beach, and even a clock tower that’s referred to as – yup – Big Ben.
Color City is made up of round shapes lacking detail or definition. It’s a constant reminder of how low-rent the animation is. The Hero of Color City has the appearance of a grade school project that hasn’t been completed and is stuck as a “Rapid Prototype”, a phase animators refer to when shaping their character designs early in their production. After looking at what Frank Gladstone allows in the final cut of his film, I’ve seen more creativity in homemade Minecraft creations. Hire those kids to work on the sequel, Frank.
The animation may have been an afterthought (it’s possible the film was working with a small budget), but the visuals still need to show competence and flair. Especially in a movie where imagination and vivid hues are the main focus.
More bad news: the screenwriting team have decided to redirect all of the attention on Yellow (voiced by Christina Ricci). The problem with that is a scaredy cat is only tolerable in small doses. Ricci, who’s usually adorable but in dire need of a breakout, is so shrill as Yellow. The character is frightened by everything, and it’s tiresome to see and hear that happening throughout the flick. Her cute, happy song she sings on her bike is a highlight because it features Yellow doing something other than being timid.
The movie should’ve been circulated around White (voiced by Jeremy Guskin). He’s a crayon who hardly gets used, and is wanting to have equal opportunities. He gets excited when he’s chosen to colour in clouds. When he embarks on a quest to free Color City’s vibrant waterfall with his friends, his go-getter attitude would be more watchable than Yellow’s journey to overcome endless fears.
Will those kids – those very, very young kids – be engaged by this lightweight fare? Barely. The ones who came for bright colours will be distracted away from the boring story, and the ones who came for anything else may wonder why they even bothered watching The Hero of Color City in the first place. The bottom line is there are lots of kid-friendly, entertaining movies out there with originality and energy behind them. The Hero of Color City is not one of them.