"Cute, Warm & Furry"
NAPOLEON is a tender hearted animal adventure story along the lines of MILO AND OTIS, without the strong sense of jeopardy, and HOMEWARD BOUND, without the incisive and sometimes scatological humor. What it does have going for it is incredible cuteness, making it a wonderful opportunity to go to the theater with small children.
NAPOLEON is a golden retriever puppy who lives in a very nice home in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia and gets upset when his mother, who is on a long leash, calls him by his real name, Muffin. When he hears the wild dogs bark in the distance, he decides that he wants to join them and explore the world.
At a birthday party for his young master, he gets the opportunity to go into the wild when he climbs into a basket, tied to a group of helium balloons, and the basket’s tether to the ground breaks. After a stunning aerial tour of the city, and some near misses with cars, buses and monorails, Napoleon finds himself blown to the edge of the outback where a helpful Galah (a migratory bird native to Australia), named Birdo, pops Napoleon’s balloons so that the basket will descend, and he can get out. Now, the adventure begins.
Like every teenager, Napoleon thinks everything is going to be fun as he seeks to find the wild dogs, but jungle life surrounds him with unexpected perils, especially cat, who has turned feral and dangerous. Birdo rescues Napoleon several times as he meets the creatures of the forest, frog, wallaby, wombat, penguin, dingo, and sea turtle. Eventually, he saves some little dingo puppies from a flash flood. In the process of his journey, he learns that there is no place like home, and with the help of sea turtle, he tries to make it back home to his mother.
This is a film that was made with tender loving care. It doesn’t employ any modern techniques of moving the animals lips. Instead, it is just their thoughts as they talk to each other in marvelous voices. Some of the movie seems dated and clearly it was made on a low budget. Most of the animal scenes are superb, but the script is clearly aimed at children so there is no intense jeopardy.
NAPOLEON is the first Australian live-action feature film to use an all-animal cast. Since puppies tend to grow quickly, 64 puppy stars were used during the course of the 34-week shoot. To the untrained eye, one golden retriever looks much the same as another, but when you have 100mm lens pointing at them, the differences rapidly become obvious,” explains producer Michael Bourchier. To solve that problem, Michael said, “I employed a golden retriever breeder to trace bloodlines around Australia to find dogs that looked similar.”
Usually, several dogs were used for each scene. “When Napoleon walks onto the log, floats across the lake, is encouraged by Birdo, then jumps in the water and swims, we actually used five dogs to construct the scene with the subtle variation of reactions,” director Andreacchio recalls.
Galahs (pronounced Ghu-lars) are migratory, parrot-like birds native to Australia. They fly in large groups following the water. Since they are an extremely common bird and an integral part of the outback landscape, it was easy to find identical looking birds for the film.
“You can affectionately call someone a `silly galah’ since these birds are fairly simple-minded,” explains Andreacchio. “The trouble Birdo has landing is perfectly in character with the real nature of he bird.”
Some of the birds were trained to perform specific pieces of actions. The remainder of the native Australian animals were not trainable. The intention was to always allow the animals to react and interact as naturally as possible. As a result there were many wonderful surprises during the filming.
All the dialogue was written after the film was shot and edited. Editor Edward McQueen-Mason had to cut scenes of animals talking to each other without knowing what they were saying. The images were not changed at any time to fit into any written dialogue. The words had to fit the images. Some well-known performers are heard as the featured animal players: Joan Rivers (Mother Penguin), Stuart Pankin is the “barking” parenti lizard and Australia’s own Barry Humphries is the Kangaroo.
The Australian-Japanese co-production was over half the continent of Australia, in locales in South Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island. Locations were chosen for their story and cinematic value, not for their reality. The producers decided on a unique production methodology to accomplish the complex shoot. Napoleon would be a 34-week shoot with a small crew. It was the longest feature film shot in Australian history.
Director of photography Roger Dowling decided to work the camera very close to the animals to allow the audience to participate with them in the scene, rather than observing from a distance. This gave the inquisitive pooches the chance to lick the lens and slurp all over it (driving the camera assistant crazy). One of the mischievous galahs pecked at the lens, climbed on top of the camera and chewed on the rubber lens hood. The camera team was extremely patient with the curious creatures.
The most dangerous sequence filmed is also one of the funniest in the film. Napoleon finally gets close to the wild dogs, only to discover he’s been fooled by an animal impersonator in the body of a gigantic “barking” perenti lizard. The nine-foot-long, carnivorous, cold blooded animal was carefully controlled by two animal wranglers. The lizard and the puppy were separated by the magic of a split screen.
This movie is perfect for little children. Catch it if you can. If you can’t, take a look on video.
(M, V, M) Moral worldview; no foul language; some nature violence & a feral cat who tries to attack puppy & penguin; no sex; no nudity; and, running away from home is reprimanded
NAPOLEON is an adorable, tender-hearted animal adventure. NAPOLEON lives in a nice home in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. A golden retriever, he wants to explore the world and gets upset when his mother calls him by his real name, Muffin. At a birthday party for his young master, he climbs into a basket which is tied to a group of helium balloons, and the basket’s tether to the ground breaks. He is blown to the edge of the outback where a helpful galah bird, named Birdo, pops Napoleon’s balloons so that he can get down. Through a series of adventures, he learns that there is no place like home. With the help of sea turtle, he tries to make it back home to his mother.
This is a film that was made with tender loving care. It doesn’t employ any modern techniques of moving the animals lips. Most of the animal scenes are superb, but the script is clearly aimed at children so there is no intense jeopardy. Containing very mild action violence, no foul language, no sex, and no nudity, this movie is a wonderful opportunity to go to the theater with small children. Catch it if you can. If you can’t, take a look on video.