For Disney’s 51st animated feature, they have chosen to adapt a short fantasy story by Philip K. Dick. Yes, you read that right. The House of Mouse has turned to the guy that once asked whether androids dream of electric sheep.
The short story was first published in 1953 and tells the story of a gas station attendant named Shadrach Jones. During a particularly stormy night, he receives a knock on his door from a group of small elves who beg him for shelter. Now normally in such a situation you would probably start asking, “What the hell are elves doing at my front door?” Instead Shadrach casually allows them to come inside. It turns out that they’re on the run from the big bad trolls and could do with a new king since their current one doesn’t have a lot of time left. Before you can say, “Why am I never the Chosen One?” Shadrach becomes the new king of the elves, helping them in their fight.
It sounds like perfect Disney fodder; however, the "unlikely-human-hero-transformed-into-helping-a-mystical-clan" set up is nothing new. Similarly themed animated features include Arthur and the Invisibles (which was a mixture of animation and live action), and to a lesser degree, The Ant Bully. If you don’t recall these films, that would be because they were both box office flops.
What King of the Elves has going for it is the directorial talent of Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, who previously had a hit with Disney’s Brother Bear ($85 million domestic, which hit $250 million worldwide). That dealt with a somewhat similar theme of a hunter transformed into a bear as a punishment for killing one!
Maybe latching onto a Philip K. Dick short isn’t as absurd as it first sounds. Good things could come from this. If it makes just one child question, “Hey, I wonder what else this Philip Dick guy has done?”, then kudos to Disney indeed. Who knows; a success could result in DreamWorks Animation suddenly turning to Stephen King. (Shalimar Sahota/BOP)