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Well, here we are! The 100th animation review. I’m honestly pretty proud of making it this far. The main goal was to talk about the lesser known animated films, because that is more interesting and fun to talk about, than the big named animated films. Over the 100 reviews, I have seen the animation world change, like DreamWorks being bought by Universal, Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings making a huge fight for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and watching as GKids becomes a bigger deal among animation enthusiasts. It even led me to talk about stuff I normally wouldn’t be interested in, like the Oscars and their new ruling for animated features. I have also gained a good sizable following from people who enjoy animation and maybe haven’t heard about some of the films I talked about. I can’t wait to see how the industry moves forward for the next 100 reviews. Now, this is a special occasion, and it deserves a special movie. Since I make it a tradition for every 10th review to be something infamous and notorious, well, it was not hard to pick what can be considered one of the biggest animation disasters of all time with Delgo.
While, for some reason, it is incredibly hard to find information on Delgo, it is known as the biggest failure in terms of a wide release theatrical animated feature. The film was directed my Marc F. Adler, who also produced it and came up with the story for the film. Supposedly, the film took a span of nine years from start to finish. Instead of getting help from Hollywood, he went out of his way to get outside help to fund, animate, and create this notorious flop. They even did stuff that probably added more to the cost by flying out to each individual actor’s place of living to voice their lines there, and not have them come to them. Heck, two of the actors actually died before the film was released. After being put together by “fresh out of the university” animators, who went under stage names for obvious reasons, Delgo was released in over 2,000 theaters with the help of Freestyle Releasing in 2008. Unfortunately for all the work Marc F. Adler and his crew did to be the next big animated hit with no help from Hollywood, the film was an utter failure from critics, the three film-goers who actually went to see this, and financially. Out of a meager $40 mil budget, not including other things like small marketing and such, it only recouped a little over $900K. Yeah, when you can’t even break a million, that says something for the quality of this film. I also held back the review for Delgo, because not only is it one of the biggest bombs in terms of animated films, it pretty much killed everyone’s career or killed their careers even more so than ever. Think about it, name one actor or person behind the scenes that went on to do better things after this film. None of them really had a career after this film. Maybe some success in more recent years, but this was a career killer for sure. So, after almost 10 years since its release, how does the film hold up? Well, let’s find out.
The story takes place in this very Dark Crystal-like world known as Jhamora, where two different beings live. Some of these beings are humanoid lizard people, and the others are the same type of humanoid lizards, but can fly. Our story follows the journey of Delgo, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. He lives in a post-war world, where the flying individuals invaded and attacked his people. Suffice it to say, he and a majority of his people have a hate for the ones that can fly. One day while hanging out with his friend, Filo, voiced by Chris Kattan, he ends up running into the princess of the flying people named Kyla, voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt, and her two generals, Bogardus and Raius, voiced by Val Kilmer and Malcolm McDowell. After getting to know her some more, Delgo finds out about an evil plot from an exiled flyer named Sedessa, voiced by Anne Bancroft in her last role before her death, and must save the day with the help of his friends and the princess. Can he stop the two nations from getting into another catastrophic war?
Let’s talk about the animation first. I think with talking about this film in general, it’s good to start off with its most glaring visual flaw. For a film that took eight or so years to make, it’s really ugly. I would argue it’s the ugliest theatrical animated film that I have ever seen. Yeah, Norm of the North had probably objectively worse visuals, but that was meant to be straight-to-video before it was forced into theaters. Delgo was meant for theaters and for that standard alone, it’s lackluster. It’s no better looking than Spark, and that film came out nine years later. It has all the hallmark signs of bad animation. It has stiff movements, flat textures, character designs are bland or really unappealing to look at, and movements and characters riding animals feel like there is no weight to them, and everyone is in front of a green screen. I want to know what exactly happened. This film had a budget of $40 mil. That’s $10 mil more than Toy Story. Heck, Delgo probably would have looked better if it came out around the same time Toy Story came out in 1995, but it came out in 2008, and it looks incredibly dated. I want to know what happened. Not in a stereotypically angry reviewer sort of way, but in a curious kind of way. Was it bad direction? Was it animators who were not that great and too fresh out of art school? Like, one day, I would love to see what happened with this film in some kind of documentary with people who worked on it or invested money into it. Anyway, the film’s art style is definitely trying to capture a vibe and atmosphere similar to The Dark Crystal, since they made their own universe that isn’t based on a book or a preexisting property. It doesn’t work, since the designs do not translate well. I wonder if they couldn’t update the technology or the designs in time, because nothing looks good. The entire film looks like a rough draft of what to do next, but they either ran out of money or time to get it out there. After all that time making the film, we are left with a world that’s not interesting to look at with ugly character designs.
So, the animation is really terrible, but what about the characters and story? Well, the director and overall person in charge of this film, Marc F. Adler, wanted this to be the next big Lord of the Rings and Star Wars-style epic. You know, something that’s fantastical and epic, but set in a fictional world. Well, from start to finish of this film’s production, we have had the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Original Star Wars Trilogy rereleased in theaters, and the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. Too bad this film couldn’t fix or update its script or characters to not feel dated on arrival. These characters are nothing more than just walking templates. You have the brash naïve young hero, the annoying side-kick, the pretty girl, the two evil generals to do the two general storyline of one staying evil and one redeeming himself, an evil villain for no other reason than to just be evil, bland side characters, and the hero’s parents who have two minutes of screen time before being axed off. They do nothing original or interesting with the characters in this film. They even make some of them unintentionally unlikable. For example, Chris Kattan’s character’s “wacky” antics actually gets Val Kilmer’s character axed off. Way to go. Even the story itself is so recycled and boring, that it becomes a tough sit. I know some people are like, “you have to judge this from the point of view of a kid watching this movie”. Well, you know what? No kid actually went to see this, and it didn’t become a cult hit like Cats Don’t Dance. I think kids made it clear that this film would bore anyone to tears. Even the fantasy elements have been done before. Why do you think I keep comparing it to The Dark Crystal? Fights are also not that fun to watch. Everyone is too floaty, and unlike Kung Fu Panda, which came out the same year, they don’t take advantage that, hey, they have animation and can make fights as amazing as they want them to be. Apparently, while making this film, they hired real-life people, and filmed them for reference for the animators. It really does show that it looks like motion capture when it wasn’t. It takes something as creatively unlimited as animation and makes it boring. How do you do that? For a medium that has been improved, perfected, and reinvented over a span of 71 years, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to when Delgo was released, Delgo makes the entire medium of animation boring. Congratulations, that is quite the hyperbolic task.
None of the actors bring anything that voice actors couldn’t have brought themselves to the table. Everyone sounds so wooden and uninterested, and that’s a shame. You have actors like Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Eric Idle, Michael Clarke Duncan, Burt Reynolds, and Melissa McBride in this movie, and none of them were there to be interesting. That’s another problem with the film, the actors they got to be in this movie. None of them were that great or super popular by 2008. Times change, and actors drop out of popularity, because they pick movies that don’t help them stay relevant. I think the only one who did a good job was Michael Clarke Duncan, but that’s because he was awesome, and is one of the few actors I honestly miss since his passing. What about everyone else? They were there for a paycheck. Yeah, that’s a proper way of going into a movie, not to improve your talent or leave a lasting impression, but just to get money.
This film is so aggravating to sit through as a movie. Why? Because I was never once pulled into the movie, I was never once caring or feeling emotionally invested, and never once was I in a good mood watching this. All this time, money, and talent wasted on a movie that’s so bland, boring, forgettable, and a waste of time, when I could have been watching something else. This is why people are so angry with bad movies. They took time and money to see a movie, did not like it, and felt like they got conned. I can even get the idea of sitting through something bad for entertainment, like watching M.D. Geist or for some strange reason, Norm of the North. Delgo is a film that came out a decade late, and other films that have had the same elements have been better and more entertaining.
So, what can I find to say that’s good? Well, like I said, Michael Clarke Duncan was one. I think he’s a hugely entertaining actor with a unique voice. I will also give this film the very tiniest amount of credit that it was at least trying something original. It wasn’t original in terms of themes, characters, and execution, but it wasn’t based on a book or preexisting property. In a time where films are coming out that are based on nothing, but preexisting properties wildly ranging in quality, with better original movies being left in smaller releases, this one dared to be something that stood out. It doesn’t work, but hey, at least you tried to make something original.
Without a doubt, Delgo is the worst animated movie that I have ever seen. It doesn’t do one thing correct, and even though it’s only 80 minutes long, it feels like three hours. If I had to choose a film that I would love to never watch again, it’s Delgo. From start to finish, everything is wrong. On the other hand though, I feel badly for the people that wanted this to be a reality. You work hard for almost ten years getting outside investments and tech, along with the actors you want to make the movie your big breakout hit. Sadly, upon release, you realize that all that work went down the drain as you watch your project go down in history as one of the worst animated films of all time, and one of the biggest box office disasters of all time. Actors lose any potential future acting gigs, and your name is stuck to this project. In the end, I do feel badly that the project failed. It had potential, but it was squandered by incompetent development, and trying too hard to not get big studio help. We might like to complain about how bad big studios are, but sometimes, it’s good to have one that has your back. I would only recommend checking out Delgo if you are super curious about bad movies or about bad animation in history. Otherwise, just let it be. Well, 100 reviews is quite a feat to make, and I want to thank everyone who read, commented, and helped me get through any personal obstacles. It was a fun journey to get to 100 animation reviews, and I’m excited to see what will happen in the next couple of years in the film and animation industry, as we make our way to 200 reviews. Next time, we are going to check out and review the best animated film of 2017 that I have seen so far, with In This Corner of the World. Thanks for reading, I hope you all liked my 100 reviews, and will love 100 more, and I will see you all next time.
Rating: The Worst/Blacklisted
One thought on “The Other Side of Animation 100: Delgo Review”
This also demonstrates the risk of developing an animated film as an independent for ten years; in animation innovations happen quickly and a project that takes ten years to gestate runs the risk of looking outdated by the time it’s finished unless they have the resources to constantly update your animation staff, designs and technology. And as you mention, it’s fine to attempt an original story but the story they came up with was corny, trite and derivative of other better stories like The Dark Crystal, Avatar and Lord of the Rings.
What’s remarkable about this particular situation is it’s an instance of the participants pushing through and following their dreams and the results are an absolute nightmare of failures and dashed hopes. It’s precisely what you DON”T want to happen when you follow your ambitions and become a laughingstock when the results are so terrible. I feel badly for the filmmakers, but it’s hard to give these results a pass.