Migration is a 2023 American animated adventure comedy film produced by Illumination and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film was directed by Benjamin Renner, co-directed by Guylo Homsy, and produced by Chris Meledandri, from a screenplay written by Mike White and a story by White and Renner. It stars the voices of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina, and Danny DeVito. The story follows a family of mallards who try to convince their overprotective father to go on a vacation of a lifetime and attempt to migrate from New England, through New York City, to Jamaica.
Illumination announced Migration in February 2022, with Renner, Homsy and White attached as director, co-director and writer, respectively. Renner, who had previously helmed traditionally animated films, was tasked with adapting his simple drawing style for a computer-animated film. In hiring Renner, studio head and producer Meledandri sought to focus on a filmmaker’s vision for the project in comparison with Illumination’s recent films. John Powell composed the score, marking his second collaboration with Illumination following The Lorax (2012).
Migration premiered at the VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, on October 19, 2023, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 22. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has over $194 million worldwide.
In February 2022, Illumination announced a new film titled Migration, with French animator and comic book creator Benjamin Renner set to direct with Guylo Homsy as co-director and Mike White set to pen the script. In April 2023, more film crew such as editor Christian Gazal and production designer Colin Stimpson were revealed. Renner previously directed the traditionally animated films Ernest & Celestine (2012) and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales… (2017), and was already a household name among the staff of Illumination Studios Paris prior to his involvement with the company. Illumination head and film producer Chris Meledandri hired Renner to direct the studio’s first original project since 2016 for his filmmaking sensibility, stating during his visit to the Annecy International Animation Film Festival that there is a “filmmaker attention” for Migration in comparison with Illumination’s recent releases up to The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023).
Renner described Migration as Little Miss Sunshine (2006), but with ducks. The film’s tone becomes more tense as the story progresses. Renner drew influences from his childhood experiences and dynamics with his family when making humorous situations for the Mallard family. Gwen and the situations surrounding her character are inspired by his experiences as the youngest sibling in his family. When shaping the film’s humor, Renner wanted to avoid “lazy jokes,” which he felt were common in family films. He aimed for a sense of humor that could appeal to both children and adults. For example, he made sure that any slapstick humor in the film was both thought through and had an extra dimension to it. Additionally, a general rule he made for himself was for there to be no fart jokes. The filmmakers sought to treat the humans in the film in the way they believed ducks perceived them. Renner said, “The humans are treated like animals in the movie, in that only the birds understand each other”.
White described the film as using a “comedic fantasy landscape” to explore its central themes. He said that the film has more depth than a standard children’s film and a lot of Illumination’s output, but still retains a zaniness that appeals to children. Renner described the main theme in the film as “getting out of your comfort zone, facing life, and accepting that fear is part of life.”
- Kumail Nanjiani as Mack Mallard, an anxious mallard
- Elizabeth Banks as Pam Mallard, a mallard who is the daring and quick-witted wife of Mack
- Keegan-Michael Key as Delroy, a homesick Jamaican-accented scarlet macaw locked away in a restaurant in Manhattan
- Awkwafina as Chump, the one-footed leader of a New York City pigeon gang
- Carol Kane as Erin, a great blue heron whom the Mallards befriend on their journey
- David Mitchell as GooGoo, an American Pekin who is the yogic leader of a duck farm
- Isabela Merced as Kim, a duck whose family is heading to Jamaica
- Caspar Jennings as Dax Mallard, a mallard Mack and Pam’s confident and restless preteen son
- Tresi Gazal as Gwen Mallard, A mallard who is Mack and Pam’s innocent and lovable daughter
- Danny DeVito as Uncle Dan, a Mallard who is Mack’s curmudgeonly, adventure-averse uncle and Dax and Gwen’s great uncle
December 6, 2023
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