Bears, wolves, mice, donkeys–these animals seem to have nearly nothing in common, at least characteristically. What nature separates, however, film correlates. From the timeless works of William Shakespeare and Roald Dahl to Disney Princess gems, humans becoming animals have emerged as classic plots for unforgettable stories. The very notion of such an outlandish proposal appeals to us humans as it not only provides a fresh, comedic perspective on animals’ heightened senses and queer mannerisms but it also conveys a deeper message of love, family, gratitude, and bravery.
Last year, Blue Sky Studios added Spies in Disguise to the human-becoming-animal mix–but it’s not as you might suppose. While previous movies took a fantastical and mythical approach to the human’s transformation, this animation explains it through science and technology.
Based on the short animation Pigeon: Impossible, titled after the famous Mission: Impossibles starring Tom Cruise, Spies in Disguise explores the unlikely friendship between two characters as they attempt to save the world. The film features Will Smith and Tom Holland as the main voice actors, Smith playing the role of suave spy Lance Sterling turned pigeon and Holland, a techy nerd by the name of Walter Beckett. Possessing silky smooth martial arts skill, witty catch phrases, and unshakeable poise, Sterling stands as the admirable icon of the H.T.U.V–Honor, Trust, Unity, and Valor–spy agency. His consistent success and uncanny ability to remain unscathed during his covert missions place him as an invaluable asset to the agency. However, he might as well be part of the “H.V,” for he lacks the central pieces of the acronym; despite the honorable, brave deeds he accomplishes, he trusts nobody and depends solely upon his individual talents. Sterling’s unrestrained cockiness and inability to comply with orders remain a thorn in the agency’s side, crippling the effectiveness of fighting crime. Moreover, his preference of violent methods, meaning killing rather than harming, is somewhat hard to swallow–especially for Beckett, a teenage genius commissioned by the agency to create high-tech devices for Sterling’s use in operations. Marred by the memory of his mother’s heroic death as a police officer, Beckett stylizes his technology in reflection of his desire for anti-violence. His unconventional choice of kitty glitter and gooey bubblegum guns, however, soon clashes against Sterling’s idea of a weapon and leads to him being fired. While Beckett grieves over his lost job, Sterling is mistaken for a villain with a world-destroying weapon and identified as a traitor. Forced on the run, he remembers Beckett’s quirky gadgets and visits his home in search of one to make him disappear; instead, he drinks one of Beckett’s concoctions and transforms into a pigeon. Chased by agents sent by the H.T.U.V, and in pursuit of the unknown villain, Sterling and Beckett embark on a world-saving journey that delves into the ethics of fighting, the fine line between the good and bad guys, and the flaws of self-asserted independence. While the experienced Sterling ignores Beckett and demands things his way, his insistence on “flying solo” and “fighting fire with fire” soon jeopardize their lives and the world’s fate, leading him to realize his need for the quirky kid he had once double-fired.
Spies in Disguise demonstrates an incredible balance of slapstick comedy and a strong moral, making it a perfect fit for youth. In an age where independence and self-confidence are encouraged to thrive in a competitive society, this film conveys a message of humility, friendship, and teamwork. While Sterling remained lodged in his own aggressive ideas of how to fight crime, he gave no room to ponder on the preciousness of life or how to become a team player. His independence could only go so far in accomplishing his missions, and if not for the tenacious friendship of Beckett, he too would have been consumed in the “fire” of violent combat. This example of Lance Sterling and Walter Beckett teaches that friendship and teamwork are necessary for even the coolest and most self-confident experts. It simply doesn’t matter whether you’re a nerdy teenager or have a peculiar obsession with pigeons–you could just potentially be a friend in disguise.
Spies in Disguise. (2020, October 10). Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spies_in_Disguise
M. (2019, December). Spies in Disguise Wallpaper [Digital image]. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://mamasgeeky.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/spies-in-disguise-fist-bump.jpg
S. (2019). [Digital image]. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://straightfromamovie.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/spies-in-disguise-wallpaper.jpg