Review: Leafie, a Hen into the Wild

Leafie A Hen Into the Wild poster Korean.jpgLeafie the hen is not happy with her way of life, a life of eating corn and laying eggs, when all she wants is to be out in the yard. One evening she escapes, but after discovering that the animals that run free on the yard aren’t as nice as she thought, Leafie ventures out into the open land. After befriending a strong yet caring duck, whom she calls Wanderer, and finding a home with the help of an otter, whom she calls Mayor, she starts to settle in, only for disaster to strike when a one-eyed weasel kills Wanderer’s love, leaving an egg without a mother. Leafie willingly volunteers, but disaster strikes yet again when Wanderer is killed trying to defend the Leafie and the egg from the weasel. Now a lonely mother hen of a baby duck, she decides to fulfil Wanderer’s last wish, to bring his son to live on the everglades, and raise him up, naming him Greenie and one day, teaching him how to fly, all the while protecting him from the weasel that would love to hunt both of them down.

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It’s not a surprise to say I’ve never really looked at Korean animation as much as I have done for British, American, Japanese and even French animation. Historically, animated films from South Korea normally struggle to do well in the box office, even in its own country, so it’s rare for one to get international recog-nition. The art style is probably one of the main reasons Leafie ended up exceeding expectations and gaining an international following. The colours are bright and vivid, the detail and shading is fairly smooth and blends together nicely, especially with the deep water coloured backgrounds. The character designs also have a slightly more international feel, with the animals fitting close to their real life counterparts and rarely having overly exaggerated expressions. While the animation itself is a little jerky, it never feels like it’s doing it to be cheap, more to focus on the characters themselves, the animation itself is much more effective in scenes where there is a lot of tension and speed. There is also a surprising amount of interaction between 2D and 3D animation, something I noticed in a lot of Korean animated films.

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The music consists of a decent amount of orchestrated background fair, although not entirely memorable. Every now and then you’ll get a light amount of jazz or a piano and some rather quiet and sombre moments, but aside from the song in the credits there’s isn’t much that is very catching about the soundtrack. It’s probably very easy to compare voice acting in the South Korean dub to Japanese voice acting, as they both share similar traits and voice styles. Wanderer has the mature and stern tone, Greenie has the young adventurous male tone and the otter has the fast-talking and direct tone of voice you generally fined from game show hosts of Japanese Game Shows. Although the South Korean cast does have a more unique female members, such as Chirpie being loud and optimistic and Leafie being spacey and sharp, but also loud herself. The worst of the voice acting in the Korean dub would have to be the barn yard animals, which seemed to have been directed to be the most obnoxious and annoying set of voices purely so they could be antagonistic, and yet the weasel is already the antagonist with a dark and subtle tone.

The English dub is done by the Toronto based 108 media group, and interestingly it is available in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but not in the states as of writing. Also the name is changed slightly so Leafie is now Daisy: A Hen Into the Wild, probably because Leafie isn’t an American enough name, same can be said for Greenie who’s now named Willy and Wanderer who’s now called Wilson. Speaking of American, for a Toronto based studio the voice cast is very Americanized, which might put some people off the voice work but aside from the name changes and one or two small edits, there isn’t much change to the dialogue thankfully.

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The story is interestingly separated in its act structure, as the story as a whole is on Leafie living in the wild, but each act has its own plot thread. First act is Leafie actually leaving the farm and finding a place to stay in the wild, second act has Leafie raising Greenie from duckling to a fully grown duck who can fly, where the main conflict is the idea of a hen raising a duck, and the final act has Greenie trying to fit into his own kind. While it does help with developing the main characters, it leaves the supporting cast falling flat, especially the ones that only have much focus. This is especially noticeable in the final act, where there are “rival ducks” that have very little characterisation so it feels mostly cliché and predictable until you reach the ending. Unfortunately, I try my best to avoid spoiling films to encourage readers to see the films for themselves, however this is one of those cases where you cannot really discuss the story of the film much without spoiling parts of the story and giving away the ending, so for those people I’m leaving the next set of paragraphs for a second page, so you can read it if you’ve seen the film already.

Leafie: A Hen into the Wild is definitely a heart-warming movie for kids and adults alike, with a likeable and well defined lead and an emotional story. It definitely is a classic and I hope to see more films from this country.