ContactSales: Finecut, Seoul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: South Korea, 27 Jul 2011.
Presented by Myung Films (SK), Lotte Entertainment (SK), in association with GDCA, Sovik Venture Capital, The Diversity Company. Produced by Myung Films (SK), Odoltogi Studios (SK). Executive producers: Lee Eun, Jaime Shim, Son Gwang-ik. Producers: Lee Eun, Jaime Shim, Kim Seon-gu.
Animation direction: Lee Chun-baek. Script: Kim Eun-jeong, Na Hyeon. Book: Hwang Seon-mi (2000). Photography: Lee Jong-hyeok. Editing: Kim Sang-beom, Kim Jae-beom. Music: Lee Ji-su. Theme song vocal: IU [Lee Ji-eun]. Art direction: Yu Seung-bae. Sound: Kim Seok-won, Kim Chang-seop.
Voices: Mun So-ri (Leafie), Yu Seung-ho (Greenie), Choi Min-shik (Wanderer), Park Cheol-min (Mayor/Mr. Otter), Kim Sang-hyeon (One-Eye), Jeon Suk-gyeong (Chirpie), Sa Seong-ung (Red-Head), Han Shin-jeong (young Greenie), Kim Ji-hye (mandarin duck mother), Hong Beom-gi (bat), Seo Seung-won (owl).
Leafie 마당을 나온 암탉
2011, colour, 1.85:1, 92 mins
Directed by Oh Seong-yun (오성윤 | 吳成允)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 28 December 2011, 21:40 PM (HKT)
Likeable, if very traditional, cartoon about a battery hen who flees the coop. Beyond Asia, niche theatrical and ancillary.
South Korea, sometime in the modern day. Leafie, a battery hen on a remote farm in the south, dreams of being free and in the wild. She starves herself to feign death and is taken by the owner to an outside pit where the bodies of dead chickens are dumped. Recovering, she's almost killed by the weasel One-Eye but is rescued by Wanderer, a wild duck who once used to be a champion guard duck for his flock. Leafie falls for the handsome Wanderer but unfortunately finds he is paired with another duck. Meanwhile, she gets to know Mayor, a wild otter who organises living space for all the animals in the area. When Wanderer's mate is killed by One-Eye, Leafie nurses the egg left behind while Wanderer tries to exact revenge on the weasel. However, after repeated battles, Wanderer is killed. The same night, the egg hatches and the baby duck takes Leafie as his mother. She names him Greenie, and the two set off to the everglades, as instructed by Wanderer before he died. As a chicken, Leafie is not made welcome by the acquatic birds in the everglades, and Greenie grows up feeling discriminated against, as he doesn't look like his "mother" and she is unable to teach him to fly. Feeling ashamed, Greenie goes off on his own - but One-Eye is lurking nearby.
Adapted from a best-selling novella by children's author HWANG Seon-mi 황선미 | 黄善美 that's reportedly sold 1 million copies since its publication in 2000, Leafie 마당을 나온 암탉 (2011) has become South Korea's most successful animated film since the country's first feature-length cartoon, A Story of Hong Kil-dong 홍길동전 (1967). Like the best productions of Myung Films 명필름 (from Joint Security Area 공동경비구역 ＪＳＡ (2000) to Cyrano Agency 시라노; 연애조작단 (2010)), here partnered with animation house Odoltogi Studios 오돌또기, it's a clever mixture of thoroughly Korean content and Hollywood-style slickness that can resonate with both local and international audiences. In that respect it helps to take South Korea out of the ghetto of being a country that's good at doing donkey work on others' cartoons but has hardly any profile of its own as an animation producer.
For all its likeable qualities — sympathetic characters, a clean storyline that doesn't overdo its message of tolerance, and an avoidance of cuteness and goo — it's still important to put Leafie into perspective. When stacked up against the best feature cartoons from countries like Japan and the US, it's just OK, and is extremely conservative compared with more progressive European works. With director OH Seong-yun 오성윤 | 吳成允 and animation director LEE Chun-baek 이춘백 | 李春佰 deliberately using old-style 2-D cel animation, it lacks a strong artistic signature of its own even when set against some of the other local cartoons of the past decade — the aggressive, futuristic Aachi & Ssipak 아치와 씨팍 (2005), the gentle Oseam 오세암 (2003), the dystopian Wonderful Days 원더풀 데이즈 (2003) (aka Sky Blue), the folkloristic My Beautiful Girl, Mari 마리 이야기 (2001) and Yobi: The Five Tailed Fox 천년여우 여우비 (2006) (both by LEE Seong-gang 이성강 | 李成疆), or even Japanese clone Robot Taekwon V 로보트 태권브이 (1976) from an earlier era.
However, by aiming less high, and staying more traditional, Leafie is ultimately more successful at what it does than several of those predecessors. The most pleasant surprise is its thoroughly Korean content, from the rumbustious figure of the otter (characterfully voiced by PARK Cheol-min 박철민 | 朴哲民) to a surprise denouement that would never be sanctioned in a Hollywood production. Though the sharply drawn foreground characters have an international look, the gentler backgrounds seem typically Korean in their use of landscape and flora (with the Upo wetlands in the south of the country inspiring the everglades in which much of the action takes place). Purely manga touches, like the flowing crest of the handsome Wanderer, are extremely limited.
Voicing is fine, with well-known actress MUN So-ri 문소리 | 文素利 making Leafie ingenuous but not sappy, young actor YU Seung-ho 유승호 | 俞承豪 (the voice of Astro-Boy in South Korea) giving substance to her adopted son Greenie, and veteran CHOI Min-shik 최민식 | 崔岷植 investing Wanderer with a lonely dignity. Given the film's episodic structure, only the bossy Otter emerges as a fully drawn character, though there's some emotional pull in the latter section between Leafie and Greenie. The only section that jars slightly is the guard-duck contest in which Greenie wins his spurs: staged like a televised sports competition, it initially feels false in the context of the rest of the movie, though its finale does perk up a film that is short on extended setpieces and real drama.
The film is also known as Leafie: A Hen into the Wild.