Perhaps one of the reasons there haven’t been very many Icelandic cartoons (apart from the probative costs), is that there aren’t that many animals around here to anthropomorphize. True, Walt Disney did want to make a cartoon of Gunnar Gunnarsson’s classic novella Advent, which features a man, a dog and a sheep. But the two old Nazis got into a dispute over money and nothing became of it. Ploey: You Never Fly Alone, however, wisely focuses on the most varied animal species here, the birds, but most of the other ones get a look in too.
The Lóa, or plover, is perhaps the best loved of all bird species in Iceland as it is seen to herald the coming of spring. This is also where the film begins. However, danger looms in the person of the Icelandic gyrfalcon, or Valur, so martial a species that it is named after a battlefield. Grapevine is quite partial to Valurs and would take its side (we all gotta eat),however, the kids in the cinema did not.
There is an entertaining scene where the kría, or artic tern, a very annoying fowl which protects not only its own young but by extension also those of other species by pecking anyone who comes to close, finally puts it skills to good use. The death toll is actually quite high in these opening scenes, reminding us that life in nature often is brutish and short. Suffice to say that our Ploey gets left behind and has to struggle to survive the Icelandic winter on his own.
The story is functional, but the films main strength comes from its setting. Just as Frozen recreated northern Norway, if somewhat mythologically, we here get to meet almost all the mammals native to Iceland. There is a sheep (obviously), a mink, a mouse and even a reindeer. One of the main characters is a ptarmigan, a traditional Christmas dish, but here the tables are turned somewhat as the bird in full winter camouflage collects shotgun shells to us against the poor, unarmed (well, apart from the razor-claws) Valur.
The film could do with a few more Easter eggs for the adults, but we do get a Casper David Friedrich painting and a kría poop assault on a bridge that is straight out of Apocalypse Now.
Nevertheless, the film succeeds in its main tasks of entertaining the kids (the youngest ones really learnt to fear the Valur). It also manages to turn Iceland, with it’s stunning settings and particular, if limited fauna, into a suitable place for animal cartoons.
The film was a long time in the making and the results can largely be seen up there on the screen. It is the second full-length film, following Legends of Valhalla: Thor and the two shorts; The Lost Little Caterpillar and the Björk-starring Anna and the Moods. But where will they go from here? It will be interesting to see.
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