A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yellowbird is a French movie released in the U.S. that is voiced by American actors. Its beautifully animated, simple story of an obstacle-filled bird migration is both comic and suspenseful. Several scenes find the flock in danger as they fly over the continents, with both missteps and threats making things often very difficult and sometimes very funny. There is some name-calling. Cartoon action and suspense include: chases, a hunter with a rifle, airplanes that appear menacing, getting lost, falls, and a fight for survival in cold weather. There is one sad death early in the movie. The hero learns important lessons about honesty, the nature of family, admitting mistakes, and doing the right thing.
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What's the story?
As his shell cracks and he prepares to enter the world, YELLOWBIRD (voiced by Seth Green) rolls out of his nest and finds himself alone. The wide-eyed, clueless orphaned bird is taken under the wing of a friendly ladybug, who does the best she can to provide some mothering. But, given the circumstances, Yellowbird is afraid of just about everything and has absolutely no confidence in either his ability to fly or take care of himself. An unsettling encounter with the courageous Darius (Danny Glover), who has been attacked by two mean cats and is desperately afraid for his flock, changes everything. Darius begs Yellowbird for help. Autumn has come and winter is on the way; his flock must immediately set off for Africa, where they spend their winter months in warmth and comfort. Giving Yellowbird detailed instructions on the new route he's found, and exacting a promise from the little bird about transmitting those instructions to Karl, the most likely new leader of the flock, Darius dies. Scared beyond belief but wanting to see the world, Yellowbird keeps his promise. But he fudges Darius's intent so he will be the flock's leader. It's an intentional "mistake" that almost destroys everyone. The journey to Africa is filled with danger, excitement, unexplored lands, and budding relationships that may just provide Yellowbird with the family he's always wanted.
Is it any good?
The pace is a bit slower than in franchise cartoons made primarily for American kids (who get used to a barrage of rat-a-tat-tat action sequences). But this charming film should hold the interest of and appeal for kids who are comfortable with real versus pretend danger. What makes it most appealing is the inventive, artful animation and the distinct personalities and points of view of the characters. Wonderfully voiced by an impressive list of featured players (including Dakota Fanning, Danny Glover, Christine Baranski, Richard Kind, Jim Nash, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Elliott Gould), Yellowbird and his colleagues offer a delightful look at industrious and comic birds on their annual trip to warmer climes. The only cautionary note is that the story lingers for a while on a beloved father figure's death after an attack by two feral cats.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Yellowbird's refusal to 'fess up about his lie. How would the flock's situation have improved if he had told the truth earlier? Have you had a similar experience? What did you learn from it?
Look up some fun facts about bird migration. Why do birds migrate yearly? Which fly south? Which fly north? Which bird species flies the farthest? How do birds know when it's time to fly home?
Find out the difference between "character-driven" and "plot-driven" stories. Into which of the two categories does Yellowbird fit? Why?
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