Family movies are a sort of comfort food for people in the current climate while they are looking to forget their troubles. And the new animated film The Willoughbys may be just what the doctor ordered. The trailer for the Netflix feature debuted online recently, and it looks to be a heartwarming, madcap adventure straight out of the Pixar handbook.
There is some serious voice talent involved with the movie. Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski and Ricky Gervais voice the main cast of characters, while the movie is directed by Kris Pearn and Cory Evans.
The trailer opens in typical Disney fashion, with a young girl sitting alone in her room pensively singing a song about wanting to explore the wider world. But she never gets to finish the song, being rudely interrupted by her mother demanding the girl to pipe down. So right off the bat, you know this isn’t going to be a typical Disney princess movie.
That sentiment gets played even further as the trailer progresses. We find out that the young girl is Jane Willoughby, who, along with her three siblings, suffer at the hands of parents who are so wrapped up in each other that they have no time left for their children. Seeking a better life, the Willoughby children manage to send their parents on a wild goose chase to a distant part of the world in search of hidden treasure.
But their days of bliss without parental supervision are cut short by the arrival of a nanny, who informs them that children who are sans parents are taken into government care. When the officials arrive to collect the children and take them to a new home, the children make a last-ditch effort for freedom, running off together in search of a better family.
Their adventures takes them to all sorts of places, from what seems to be a blimp in the sky to a chocolate factory. The bright, vibrant animation and upbeat music do slow down at times to show the children appearing to be scared and contemplative about the situation they find themselves in. So the story won’t have just one joke after another but seems to be aiming to take a deeper look at what it takes to make a positive family dynamic work.
All in all, you get a similar vibe to A Series of Unfortunate Events, with sinister adults making the life of a family of children difficult, until the kids revolt and use their own resources and ingenuity to stick together and set out in search of a better life.
Based on Lois Lowry’s book of the same name, The Willoughbys will be available on Netflix from the 22nd of April. With Disney+ all set to take the lion’s share of younger audiences in the battle from dominance being played out among streaming platforms, Netflix appears to be focusing on coming up with original kid-friendly programming instead of trying to ape Disney’s tried-and-tested model for making tween blockbusters.