When the Wilderness Explorers Meet the Wilderpeople

Originally published on August 25, 2016

With multiple movies out there, there are times where one may draw parallels among a few. Even if the plot synopses differ from each other, connections can be drawn that can make one’s mind completely blown.

That was certainly the case with me a few days ago when I saw the official Twitter page for Taika Waititi’s hit film, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, retweet an intriguing illustration from Australian artist Donn Pattenden. It’s of Ricky Baker, the young protagonist from HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, accepting a chocolate bar from ambitious Wilderness Explorer, Russell, from the Disney/Pixar film, UP.

I was completely blown away the drawing, and immediately noticed the commonalities between the two films that go beyond what Pattenden drew. Both boys go on the unexpected adventures of a lifetime – one in Venezuela, the other in the New Zealand bush – accompanied by a recently widowed older man, a dog or two, and an encounter with a rare bird along the way. Though the circumstances for their adventures greatly differentiate from each other, they do both involve running away from something before coming to terms with returning to a form of reality.

There’s more where that came from as far as similarities go. The character of Russell in UP is very special to the Asian American community, for he is the first Asian American character to not only appear in a Pixar film, but also be a lead. Ricky from HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is Maori, and while it may be a common sighting to seeing Maori leads on New Zealand screens, that’s uncommon in a country like ours that’s constantly pushing for a more diverse media landscape. Not to mention that many of us here at YOMYOMF love HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE; the diversity of the film being one of the reasons why. Plus, it’s also wise to note that both Ricky and Russell come from nontraditional upbringings. Ricky grew up in the foster care system, without having ever met either of his parents, whereas Russell heavily hints that his parents are no longer together.

Beyond the character and situation similarities, it’s funny how the company that co-produced UP, Disney, has since welcomed WILDERPEOPLE director Waititi into the Disney family. He co-wrote the upcoming Disney film MOANA and is currently directing the last THOR film for Marvel Studios (a subsidiary of Disney). Just to make things even more interesting, artist Pattenden used to work as an animator at Walt Disney Animation Australia.

It’s funny how something as simple as a drawing can lead to so many similarities between two films, beyond its protagonists. Not to mention it greatly illustrates how API representation is for the win!

Hats off to Pattenden for this great drawing!

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