Directors – Marc F. Adler & Jason F. Maurer, Screenplay – Marc F. Adler, Scott Biear, Patrick Cowan, Carl F. Dream, Jennifer A. Jones & Jason F. Maurer, Story – Marc F. Adler, Scott Biear & Jason F. Maurer, Producer – Marc F. Adler, Photography – Herb Kossover, Music – Geoff Zanelli, Visual Effects Supervisor – Floyd Casey, Animation Director – Warren Grubb. Production Company – Fathom Studios.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Delgo), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Princess Kyla), Anne Bancroft (Sedessa), Val Kilmer (General Bogardus), Malcolm McDowell (General Raius), Chris Kattan (Filo), Louis Gossett, Jr. (King Zahn), Eric Idle (Spig), Michael Clarke Duncan (Elder Marley), Jeff Winter (Giddy), Don Stallings (Gelmore), Burt Reynolds (Delgo’s Father)
On the world of Gemora, the peaceful Lockni agree to share their lands with the winged Nohrin whose own lands have become barren and depleted of resources. However, the king’s warlike daughter Sedessa leads the Nohrin warriors to massacre many of the Lockni. For this, King Zahn orders her wings clipped off and she banished into exile. Fifteen years later, the Lockni Delgo has grown up an orphan after his parents were killed in the attack. He is saved after falling over a cliff by Zahn’s younger daughter Princess Kyra and the two strike up a friendship. The Nohrin military commander Raius is in cahoots with Sedessa and manipulates Kyra’s friendship with Delgo to stir up war and then have the general Bogardus deposed so that he can take over. He then has Kyra abducted and taken to Sedessa, blaming it on the Lockni as a means of declaring war. Captured, Delgo, his bumbling friend Filo and Bogardus must escape from the king’s cells, rescue Kyra and stop the war.
Delgo was an independently made animated film. Created by Atlanta-based animation company Fathom Studios, production began on the film in 1999. The creative team were determined to do something unlike the usual kiddie animated film. Various digital artists were employed, often taken straight from tertiary schools, and the film took the unique approach of posting the animated dailies on its website. These soon gained attention (with the site purportedly getting some half-million hits a month) and with the students receiving offers from Hollywood studios. Fathom also took great pride in casting a series of name actors for the voice roles and conducted the very different approach of transporting the sound recording equipment to where the various actors were located rather than flying them in to the studio.
Alas, little of this paid out. The film was subject to an enormous number of delays, including the financial collapse of distributor MGM, and did not appear until 2008 nearly a decade after it had begun production. Even then it made the record for the worst opening ever for a film’s US theatrical screening up until The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (2012) – earning just over $500,000 in 2160 theatres, which averages around two audience members per screening.
There is an admirable ambition behind Delgo; unfortunately, it makes for not a terribly interesting film on screen. There has been effort made to give the flora and fauna of Gemora detail and life. All of this is often clever and creative. The main problem is not so much the creativity but that the animation looks like the graphics for a 1990s videogame. You are never less than aware that you are watching a computer animated film – the same, for instance, could not be said for the works of Pixar, or even of lesser imitators like Blue Sky where you absorb sufficiently in what you are seeing that it never gives you cause to question whether you are watching a work of digital or handheld animation. Here though, the backgrounds looks static, while the characters often have the glassy plasticity that the early works of computer animation do.
All of that said, the film does get itself together for some rousing action scenes place at the climax – the running around Sedessa’s palace; Delgo’s escape aboard a flying lizard; the pursuit through a field of floating rocks by one of the creatures in a clockwork flying machine; and especially the massed battle scenes between all the three competing armies. It is in these scenes that Delgo holds up to its promise. The rest of its story though is no more than an unexceptional assemblage of stock fantasy tropes.
The principal problem is that while the film has an ambition that aims for more than the standard kiddie animation, some of it still ends up down in that territory. There are often jarring modern colloquialisms – the princess asking “Does this make my wings look big?” or Delgo coming out with lines like “He’s kinda cool” or “Someone needs a serious time out.” The worst part though is the comedy-relief characters – from in particular Chris Kattan as Delgo’s bumbling sidekick and Eric Idle as Sedessa’s malapropism-spouting aide. Kattan’s Filo in particular is guaranteed to give the much-hated Jar-Jar Binks a run for the money in sheer irritation factor.