dir. MICHAEL HEGENER, KARSTEN KIILERICH | France, Ireland, Denmark, Great Britain | 2006 90 mins
As a producer, Ratso the rat doesn't have much success with his touring show "The Biggest Worm on Earth". However, one day he encounters the ugliest of all ducklings and so a hustle of unexpected adventures begins.
The classic fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen tells the story of an ugly duckling that finally turns into a beautiful swan, and this became the subject of several film adaptations or series. Perhaps the most famous is the nineminute long film from 1939 shot by Jack Cutting and produced by Walt Disney (Ugly Duckling). The latest addition to the "family" is the full feature animation The Ugly Duckling and Me! The original provides the film with the basic plot axis and several new characters and motives have been added. Situational comedy and verbal humour as well as many spectacular chases put the accent on the quality of the computer animation. There is a new motif; the journey to a dreamt-of objective, in this case a huge funland where Ratso intends to break into the bigtime with his artistic show.
Another innovation is the motif of the chase, typical for adventure stories, which is enriched here with a surprising and witty point. The result is an adventure comedy which is not just for children. There are also several entertaining moments of self-reflection – Ratso's thoughts about maturity or his meditation on the theme "How could a rat be relatives with a cat?" An observant viewer may discover witty references to some Hollywood spectaculars (e.g. Titanic, Aliens and Once Upon a Time in the West). Ratso's cousin Arnie is also quite humorous, he is a schizophrenic cat who carries his other, rather bizzare hand-puppet self – a flabby chicken with an afro-american accent – permanently on his left hand. One of the dynamic scenes worth pointing out involves a pike on a frozen river.
Adaption of a classic into a 3D spectacle is one of the possible approaches contemporary European animation can choose. Though The Ugly Duckling and Me! doesn't reach the compact poetics and technical mastery of the films made by the American Pixar Studios, it is still an obvious example of the fact that modest European conditions can provide the basis for a high-quality and visually attractive full feature animation for the whole family. Just for comparison the very first Czech 3D animation, Goat Story, doesn't even touch the qualities of The Ugly Duckling and Me!, in relation to the storyline and the technical calibre. Within the context of PAF dramaturgy, The Ugly Duckling and Me! belongs with the conventional choices, but it is a fi lm that is entertaining and well shot and it would be unfair to judge it for its "classification as mainstream" or even refer to it as "commercial".
His existing filmography consists of another two epic full-feature co-productions – Help! I'm a Fish and The Flight Before Christmas which is due to be released in December. Hegner shot The Ugly Duckling and Me! in collaboration with Karsten Kiilerich, who is the author of two shorts Baby Quark (1987) and Nĺr livet gĺr sin vej (1997).