Never trust a toy made from old laundry.
The Hero of Color City is, ultimately, a story without high stakes. The title would suggest the story is somehow an epic battle between good and evil but ultimately The Hero of Color City is more about a journey of self-discovery and so the stakes are not what are anticipated. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, however the rather innocuous nature of the film clearly demonstrates its positioning as a movie for the very youngest viewers. It’s definitely more light-hearted than I thought it would be and the musical elements caught me off guard. There’s nothing wrong with the movie; it’s just there isn’t much that held my attention. The one exception to that is the colors. Care is taken with this movie’s palette and the colors are so saturated that it’s almost to the point of over-saturation. The tones are very in your face.
Yellow (Christina Ricci, Lizzie Borden Took An Ax) is one of Ben’s crayons, and as such she and her fellow crayons spend their days helping make the pictures in Ben’s imagination come to fruition. But at night the crayons have a limited window to take the magic crayon box back to their home Crayon City, where they get sharpened and perform whatever tasks they feel they must before returning in time for Ben to wake up. On this particular night an anxious Yellow gets left behind.
Though it’s a temporary issue there are repercussions. While she is in Ben’s room alone, two unfinished drawings, King Scroll and Nat (Craig Ferguson, How to Train Your Dragon 2), come to life and try to get Yellow to finish their pictures. When Yellow insists she isn’t allowed to do something like that on her own and leaves, she unwittingly leads the way to Crayon City for Nat and King Scroll to follow her, which they do.
Once there, the duo begins to wreak havoc and eventually make their way to the sacred waterfall, which is the source of all color in Color City. As King Scroll and Nat gum up the works, the color begins leeching out of everything, including the crayons. Ben’s crayons must band together and find a way to get the colors flowing again before it’s too late.
Especially with the musical element thrown into the mix, the story is less intense than if it would have been crafted for an older audience. As it stands there’s nothing here to give anyone nightmares unless you’re afraid the inanimate objects populating your life are secretly sentient. Overall The Hero of Color City is completely harmless, definitely skewered for the younger end of the viewing spectrum, though there is an odd attempt to appeal to what I assume are the grandparents viewing this film. The character of Professor Heliotrope (Jeremy Guskin ‘Til Death) is clearly aping Jerry Lewis, right down to his signature “Lady!” shout.
As the movie enters the crayons’ world there isn’t a lot of shading or detail or texture and I had to wonder if it was deliberate or simply a cost saving measure. However as the movie progresses there is indeed a clear reason for this and it ends up being one of the most effective things about the film overall. We need to see the crayons’ world as colorful as it can be for the challenge the crayons face to be effective.
I’ve already mentioned a bit about the video but now let’s go ahead and break it down fully. It’s a 1.78:1/1080p HD transfer that is very clean, with nuances only coming out to support the story, not to enrich the picture necessarily. The brightness of the palette is definitely geared to a younger viewer and as an attention grabbing method it works, though I prefer more subtleties in my animation’s picture. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and performs beyond expectations, to say the least. The visuals and audio get a nice bump on the Blu-ray but even streaming this on your computer will still give you bright colors and above-average sound.
There are loads of special features with links to even more on that front. I am particularly impressed.
We have interviews with Christina Ricci, Sean Astin (who makes a brief appearance in the film) and Craig Ferguson to start. There’s a page where clicking on a character’s picture will cause a line of dialogue to spew forth.
A behind-the-scenes featurette is also available alongside galleries of both characters and places.
There is a sing-along option and a musical medley too.
Rounding out the offerings are a selection of recipes from Bumble Bee tuna as well as a link to a site where you can print out coloring pages. Speaking of coloring pages the back of the Blu-ray insert is a coloring page as well, a nifty feature I haven’t seen before.
Sometimes it’s good to color inside the lines. Though the story isn’t an adrenaline-fueled ride it is filled with educational messages parents will feel good about exposing their children to. The Hero of Color City (Blu-ray) will make you feel like breaking open a box of crayons and getting to work. The introduction of the crayon recycling program to viewers is a welcome bit of charitable outreach and the plethora of special features pushes me to recommend at least a viewing.