Flight Plan Set for Disney’s Valiant

As the major studios reroute their animated feature release dates like air traffic controllers, Disney has locked April 15, 2005 for the theatrical debut of Valiant, a CG pigeon feature produced by Vanguard Animation.

Valiant is an adventure/comedy that tells the story of a lowly wood pigeon who overcomes his small size to become a hero in Great Britain’s Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service during World War II. The RHPS advanced the Allied cause by flying vital messages about enemy movements across the English Channel, while evading brutal attacks by the enemy’s Falcon brigade.

Ewan McGregor, perhaps best known for playing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, voices the title character, leading a star-studded cast that includes Sir Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast, House of Sand and Fog) Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Rupert Everett (An Ideal Husband, My Best Friend’s Wedding), John Hurt (Harry Potter films, The Elephant Man) Hugh Laurie (Stuart Little 1 and 2) and Ricky Gervais (BBC’s The Office).

British character designer Gary Chapman makes his directorial debut with this film, produced by John H. Williams (Shrek 1 and 2). Exec. producers are Barnaby Thompson for Ealing Studios, Ralph Kamp for Odyssey Ent., Robert Jones for the U.K. Film Council and Keith Evans for Baker Street Media Finance. Eric M. Bennett, Curtis Augspurger and Buckley Collum serve as co-producers for Vanguard.

Valiant was produced at Vanguard Animation’s recently built CG studio at Ealing Studios in London. Additional work was completed at its Los Angeles and New York offices. Disney is distributing the picture in North America and Odyssey Ent. in the U.K. is handling international distribution.

If the film is successful, Vanguard will be well positioned to movie into Pixar’s role as the Mouse House’s home for 3D toon production. Disney is also trying to fill that slot itself as it releases its first in-house 3D production, Chicken Little in November of 2005. Disney is also reportedly establishing a computer animation facility in Glendale, Calif., to turn out Toy Story 3. Andrew Millstein, former head of Disney’s defunct Orlando facility, is involved in the project.