Judge David Johnson learned a lot from this cartoon: (1) Be happy with the way you are, (2) true friends stand by you despite how unattractive you may be, and (3) moonshining is common among wildlife.
It's not easy being ugly. Or a duck, I guess.
Stanley the Ugly Duckling is a 1983 cartoon given some new life in the digital realm. Claiming to be "based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale classic," this 27-minute story follows the adventures of Stanley, a duck that's, well, ugly, and his various surreal encounters with other members of the animal kingdom.
First off, this animated tale is as loosely based on its source material as you can get—I can't seem to recall a group of redneck turkeys making moonshine in Andersen's story. So this, then, is a re-imagining of the "fairy tale classic." Basically, Stanley pops out of his egg and is immediately shunned by his father and siblings. His mother manages to cough up some pseudo-inspiring babble, but it's obvious to everyone she's disappointed in her youngest child. Stanley decides to take off on an adventure of self-discovery to determine his place in the world. When he inadvertently rescues a fox being pursued by some hounds, Stanley finds a friend to accompany him on his vision quest.
The duo run into many colorful characters in the countryside, including the aforementioned white-trash turkeys (as blatant a derogatory stereotype I've seen in a cartoon), some malicious "Hell's Eagles" looking to roast Stanley for dinner, and an army of good-hearted gulls. And all the time they sing, with Stanley belting out his musical numbers in a distinctly female voice.
This is a pretty weird cartoon, but not without its charms. Sure, it's dated, and the sputtery animation and iffy picture quality betray its twenty-year-plus age. But there's energy to spare, and the wacky characters are kind of fun to watch, no matter how insane they are. Voices are provided by Wolfman Jack and Rick Dees, two names that will mean absolutely nothing to the disc's intended audience. And I think the thing is narrated by Ted Kennedy, but I could be wrong.
This is another meat-and-potatoes (minus the potatoes) release by Lions Gate. The full-frame picture sports middling video quality that definitely shows its age: Colors often seem washed out, and the transfer has its scratchy moments. The sound mix is listed as 2.0 stereo, but nearly all of the sound comes from the center channel. A few previews at the start of the feature are it for extras. The disc is direct play, so don't expect a menu.
That's Stanley the Ugly Duckling for you. A goofy, sporadically charming cartoon, which, despite its age and spotty animation, delivers a solid lesson (be happy about yourself) and a dose or two of fun times.
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