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Napoleon is a little dog that lives in Sydney. He and his mother live with a family, but Napoleon loves to dream about meeting the wild dogs that live far away, and eventually becoming one himself. One day he gets into a basket hung from some balloons and flies away into the sky. The wind carries him to a nearby island where the basket finally lands. There he meets all kinds of different animals; some of them are friendly, but some aren't. With the help of a parakeet friend he learns the secrets of living alone in the island and defending himself from wild animals. He goes in search of the wild dogs, whom he finally finds. He is very happy with them, but then he gets homesick and starts to miss his mother, so he decides to go home again. Written by
Marcos Eduardo Acosta Aldrete
Charming and educational Australian live animal film
This is a charming saga of a young puppy called Muffin who longs for adventure as his wild dog alter ego Napoleon. After he escapes from the Sydney suburbs in a hot air balloon conveniently provided by a children's party, we follow Napoleon into the stunning Australian outback where he has many adventures. Napoleon makes friends along the way including Birdo (a galah) who becomes his guide, as well as encountering enemies such as a demented cat who regards all other mammals as mice to be killed. This is a very useful educational film and morality tale with the journey into the `Red Center' of Australia being a metaphor for Napoleon's exploration into himself. Unless we follow our dreams and examine ourselves we might never know what we are capable of. Napoleon overcomes his fear of water to swim and gains maturity through performing a heroic rescue. Eventually he finds he has been brave and wild all along and can return home a more fulfilled pup.
This was the first Australian live animal movie, where any humans shown are purely secondary, and it makes full use of its country's unique menagerie of creatures. In fact I was reminded of the Walt Disney wild life films of my childhood, though unfortunately this feature lacked the same marketing power. It is good to see the live action of the animals without the animatronics of Babe, and the director (Mario Andreacchio) cleverly makes use of the 64 puppies needed in the making of the film to match the appropriate expressions.
The human voices mainly accord well with their animal counterparts, with some wonderful and famous ones, including Joan Rivers and Barry Humphries' Dame Edna Everage. Anne Louise Lambert (Picnic at Hanging Rock), especially, displays the versatility of her silken voice as a very peeved spider whose web is destroyed by Napoleon; as well as a tremulous earless wallaby terrified of domestic animals; and as an anxious desert mouse. There is some wit in the tale that shows the makers had in mind who else would be watching this film along with its target younger audience, and the songs are pleasant if not exactly memorable.
The perceived scary moments for the very young ones, such as Napoleon's encounters with the deranged cat, may be unfounded as my 2½ year old son watched this with interest without being terrified, but then he has a natural love of animals. Although the dogs struggling in the flood did concern him, a train crash in Thomas the Tank Engine and the snowstorm in Tigger the Movie' caused him more emotional distress. He was as equally confused as Napoleon at the sounds of a wild dog barking that turned out to be a perenti lizard doing animal impressions.
However, the dingo pups are probably portrayed as too cute (witness the tragic mauling to death of Clinton Gage, a nine year old boy, by a couple of wild dogs on Fraser Island in Queensland in May 2001) and perversely the most ferocious looking animal is a domestic cat. A healthy respect for wild animals must be encouraged so that we recognise that we are living in their environment, and that they as well as household pets will behave unpredictably. The senseless culling of animals in retaliation is never an answer. Co-existence is the way forward, not extermination.
In the UK VHS (PAL) copies of this film can be obtained from Britannia Music.
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