The Student News Site of Chandler High School

The Wolf Howl

The Student News Site of Chandler High School

The Wolf Howl

The Student News Site of Chandler High School

The Wolf Howl

‘Migration’ movie: Ending 2023 on a positive note

It wouldn’t be controversial to say that 2023 was a hard year for movie-goers. Animated movies in particular had little in between the extremes of ‘most beautiful movie you’ve ever witnessed’ and ‘utter waste of time.’ Animation studios were constantly competing for attention, reputations were challenged, and in the end the results spoke for themselves. That doesn’t mean there weren’t surprises though.

Illumination is at the forefront of one of those surprises. The studio has gained a reputation for making relatively good movies, then milking those movies into cheap, sub-par sequels. This trend was brought to light when the Despicable Me franchise took off and Minions suddenly overran everything the company produced. The cycle as a whole has become a bit of a meme across the internet. However, at the tail end of 2023, Illumination quietly released a movie that no one could have predicted. That movie being Migration (2023).

Migration follows a family of four ducks on a you guessed it migration from New England to Jamaica for the winter. Like the family road trip movies it pays homage to, all kinds of hijinks ensue on this flight across the world. This ranges from an encounter with a pair of elderly herons to escaping from a crazed New York chef.

The animation is a wonder to behold. Audiences haven’t been very used to seeing amazing quality animation coming from Illumination of all studios, and suddenly having a film that’s so dynamic and breathtaking to see is such a pleasant surprise. Especially in sequences dedicated to the flight of these birds. Hotel Transylvania (2012) may have given us a taste of Illumination’s approach to flight, but Migration is where that approach truly soars. Even when the characters are grounded there is so much life and intention put into the visuals of the scene. The lighting and movement of characters especially do this very well. 

The style in the animation is beautiful as well. Migration takes a step away from the cut and paste look that’s akin to Disney’s modern portfolio, and instead takes a leap in how its characters look and are animated. That’s not to say there isn’t mind-boggling detail in every corner of the film. Those details just aren’t at the forefront of the film. Characters are allowed to express themselves in cartoonish fashion, movement is exaggerated and fun, but the subtle look and feel of the film is all tied together with careful, realistic details.

I’d also like to quickly mention, in conjunction with the subtle realistic details of Migration’s animation, just how much care was put into how the world of the film works. Specifically, how the birds were treated in terms of realism. For example, there are a pair of heron characters. The protagonists, being ducks, are naturally afraid of the herons at first. This is because herons, in real life, are known to prey on ducklings. I am a bird enthusiast— it’s what drew me to the film in the first place— and I was absolutely astounded to see how much care and detail was put into things that normal audiences would likely not have really understood.

Migration’s score, masterfully composed by John Powell, is just as magnificent as its visuals. Most of the time, the music is playful, hearty, and about as down to earth as the story. However, the soundtrack knows when it can be grand, bombastic, and downright symphonic. The use of acoustic guitar, clarinet, maracas, and even choral vocalizations add layers to an already majestic array of instruments. Those extra instruments are key to giving the orchestra its character. I was incredibly shocked at how amazing the score was, especially the growth in musical expression that aligns with the growth of the characters in the film. Powell’s work and direction with the music only added to the sincerity and the heart of this film.

I had high hopes for Migration. Birds are very dear to my heart, and the state of modern animation has left me feeling wrung out and exhausted. I hoped that Migration would be a film to gently lift me into 2024, ending the year prior on a high note. On New Year’s Eve, when I watched the film with my family, I was delighted and surprised to see such a sweet film. It was an experience that fulfilled and pushed past all of my expectations. I’m still a little sad that the film hasn’t been talked about more, and that it was released to such little fanfare. 

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About the Contributor
Sif Woolf, Reporter
Sif Woolf, a sophomore on the Chandler Wolf Howl team, has big plans. They have a deep respect for life and nature, inspiring their work here as a reporter.  Their driving mantra for joining Newspaper is simple: “Giving people a perspective that they might not have seen before.”  Writing opinions articles is where they shine, and expressing their thoughts on paper has been an excellent outlet.  In the future, Sif hopes to pursue a career in the creative arts with photography, writing, or painting.