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</script></div>{/googleAds}Fledgling Vanguard Animation, based in London's historic Ealing Studios, throws its hat into the crowded CG animation ring with Valiant, a pleasantly entertaining little tale loosely based on the real life facts of how pigeons played such a crucial role for the Allied forces during World War II. It's fitting that a start-up animation studio hoping to earn a reputation as "the little studio that could" would take on the story of an ambitious little undersized pigeon named Valiant that hopes to serve his country by joining the prestigious Royal Homing Pigeon Service (RHPS).

The studio set out to make a state-of-the-art animated film at half the cost and in half the time of other major studio CG features. Such rigorous restrictions might normally spell doom for a film, but in a stroke of genius Vanguard hired John Williams, producer of Shrek and Shrek 2. The result is a funny and spirited coming-of-age experience that, despite its formulaic trappings, proves that great heartfelt storytelling will almost always win out over big budget brawn.

Upon enlistment in the RHPS, Valiant (voiced by a boyishly charming Ewan McGregor), along with his equally misfit enlistees, finds himself in the middle of a rigorous six-week basic training program that must be completed before receiving his first mission. As the war effort grows increasingly desperate, and the carrier pigeon force finds itself dangerously depleted, Valiant's ragtag squad is rushed into service. Their mission is to carry messages back and forth between England and the French resistance. But Danger lurks in the form of bad weather and vicious falcons employed by the German forces. Lead by Von Talon (Tim Curry), the falcons are a darkly sinister lot that provide genuine fear and villainy. Not enough to frighten the youngsters in the audience but just enough to provide a sense of jeopardy and suspense. It gives the story a bit of sorely needed emotional depth.

From here it's a formulaic tale of heroism that proves it's not the size of the wingspan that counts, but the size of the spirit in the fighter. We've seen this before many times, but writers Jordan Katz, George Webster and George Melrod manage to keep the interest level up by occasionally varying from the template with clever little quips, interesting secondary characters and hilarious sight gags. Of course the ruse here is that the pigeons see themselves as consciously contributing to the war effort rather than just doing what pigeons do. We don't see any humans during the film until the closing scene that reveals a major turning point in the war brought about by the success of our little avian hero.

The film's humor and quality of animation are not on the same level we've experienced with most Pixar releases, and neither is the depth of emotion. But, then again, neither was the budget. Valiant shows us that the underdog can win in more ways than one.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; French: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Blooper Reel
* Games:
o Valiant training Challenge
* Trailers: For upcoming Disney releases.

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase packaging.