Making the Grades
Brave men and women weren't the only ones to face danger on the front lines of World War II. In Disney's new computer-animated film, the heroic contributions of a group of carrier pigeons are brought to light.
A formidable falcon, General Von Talon (voice by Tim Curry), is crippling the efforts of the Allied Forces by attacking and killing birds from the Royal Homing Pigeon Service before they are able to return to England with their secret messages. In an attempt to replace the lost flyers, the RHPS steps up its recruiting efforts.
Despite his diminutive size, Valiant (Ewan McGregor) is more than eager to join up, especially after meeting the country's war champion, General Gutsy (voice by Hugh Laurie), when he stops in for a pint of bug juice at the local bar. Heading to the London war office to sign up, the little pigeon runs into Bugsy (Ricky Gervais), a street hustling bird in Trafalgar Square who cons birdseed away from his unsuspecting customers.
Bugsy, so named for the flies that hover around his odorous and unkempt feathers, has no intention of helping his country, at least until a scam goes sour. Then he steps in line with Valiant and marches to the recruitment center.
Fudging their way through the conscription process, the two new soldiers are assigned to "Squad F," a motley group of misfits made up of an Oxford-educated scholar (voice by Pip Torrens) and two rough-and-tumble brothers (voices by Brian Lonsdale and Dan Roberts). Working under a tough-minded training Sergeant (voice by Jim Broadbent), the ragtag group is far from completing their exercises when they are called up for active duty and sent winging their way to France.
There they must meet up with members of the Resistance and obtain some high security information. But before the little squad even gets a chance to rest their tail feathers, General Von Talon and his henchmen are on their trail. With no one else to complete the mission, Valiant and his friends are forced to employ evasive action and fly back to England with the vital scroll.
While much more child-friendly than most war movies, the film still includes scenes of mid-air fighting between planes and birds. Young audience members may be disturbed by some cartoon-style violence and the capture of feathered prisoners of war who are subjected to a truth drug. Bugsy's lack of manners also results in some bathroom humor and the occasional mild innuendo.
Although the characters often seem to lack the real interactive spark of Disney's other animated teams like Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and Mike and Sully in Monsters Inc., the script is still a Valiant attempt at honoring those critters who did their part for peace.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Valiant.
To learn more about the Dickin Medal that continues to be awarded to brave animals check out www.pdsa.org.uk/pages/page01_13.cfm.
What helped Bugsy change his mind about serving in the RHPS? How did his relationship with the other members of his squad affect his attitude?
In what other ways do you think animals may have contributed to war efforts? How do dogs assist local law officers and security agencies today?