The concept album became many more, became a TV series, became a game show, became countless merchandise products, became musicals and so much more. Now comes the cinema adventure – yes TABALUGA – THE MOVIE does not do justice to the template. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
The little dragon Tabaluga (Wincent Weiss) lives with his best friend, the lucky beetle Bully (Michael Bully Herbig), and his foster father, the raven Kolk (Rufus Beck), in the idyllic grassland. It could all be so beautiful, but Tabaluga doesn’t want to be able to ignite his fire, without which he doesn’t feel like a real dragon. In search of his fire, he sets off with Bully to Eisland. He meets the polar bear Limbo (Rick Kavanian) and the beautiful ice princess Lilli (Yvonne Catterfeld). Through her, Tabaluga discovers the power of love, which can finally ignite his fire. Thanks to Lilli, he is now strong enough to face the evil snowman Arktos (Heinz Hoenig)…
Movie explanation of the ending
Although the author of these lines grew up in the age of radio play cassettes and CDs, she still associates the pleasant crackle of records with the musical adventures of the little dragon Tabaluga. In 1983, “Tabaluga and the Journey to Reason,” the first of six concept albums, was released. Detours into television followed, either as a series or game show, stage appearances, musicals and concerts – and the fire breather created by Peter Maffay was always a part of our youth pop culture. The fact that the green dragon always had to adapt a little to the spirit of the times is proven once again by the very first film with him in the lead role. It has to be 3D animated, the songs from the past in a new, interchangeable rock-pop guise, of course, performed by one of the hottest USA singer/songwriters of the moment. Meanwhile, the story follows well-known paths. Once again, a child protagonist must first find himself and then firmly believe in what he wants to achieve. So nothing new – and that’s exactly what makes “Tabaluga – The Film” so irrelevant, because the few things that point out that the animated adventure is based on a really charming template are unfortunately treated far too neglectfully.
Raven Kolk takes care of the little baby dragon.
With its origins as a concept album, protagonist Tabaluga naturally has a very clear orientation: he is primarily an interpreter of melancholic songs (performed on the records by Peter Maffay), so it stands to reason that director Sven Unterwaldt Jr. (“Seven Dwarfs – Men Alone in the Forest”) also uses songs as a narrative stylistic device in his film. There should be a bit of a musical feeling. But his approach is not only rather uncoordinated, but also interchangeable. There is no system behind it to tell which songs the makers have chosen and which not. Classics like “Nessaja”, “Song of the Moon” or “Luminous Silence” are either missing entirely or are only hinted at in the credits. Sometimes Peter Maffay interprets the songs himself in the most pleasing version possible, other times they are performed by the speakers or singers who lend their voices to the characters in “Tabaluga”. Of course, Wincent Weiss does this just as confidently as scene-stealer Michael Bully Herbig (“Balloon”) or Heinz Hoenig (“Bank Lady”)but due to this incoherence in the handling of the songs, which sometimes have a dramaturgical significance and sometimes are simply background entertainment, the film doesn’t work as a musical, as it was obviously intended to be.
The story itself also appears to have been based on elements from the concept albums based on a rough estimate, rather than being carefully pre-sorted. Of course, Lilli, one of the most striking supporting characters from the song stories, is present – the third album was even called “Tabaluga and Lilli” and roughly deals with the story that is told in “Tabaluga – The Film”. This is also about the fight between the good dragon Tabaluga and his peace-loving friends from Grassland against the evil Arktos and his followers from the ice world. Even the villain song “The Key to Power” performed by the evil snowman appears exactly the same on the album. But contrary to what the film suggests, a simple fight between the two opponents is not enough. Instead, “Tabaluga and Lilli” is about looking for and finding similarities and differences and living together with them. The “Tabaluga” albums and their songs were never just about black and white, but primarily dealt with emotional gray areas; a quality feature that the film completely lacks.
Lilli, Tabaluga, the beetle Bully and the polar bear Limbo form up against the snowman Arktos.
Above all, “Tabaluga – The Film” is far from any form of amiability. No matter how hackneyed the message may be, it is still relevant, especially in children-oriented cinema, and therefore only requires a reasonably committed presentation in order to still work. Unfortunately, Sven Unterwaldt Jr. just seems to check off the stages necessary for such a story instead of being genuinely interested in his characters. There’s the funny sidekick, another funny sidekick, the hero, the love interest and the enemy – but rarely has a familiar constellation felt less interesting. Above all, the chemistry between Tabaluga and his Lilli, who is visually very reminiscent of Elsa from “Frozen”, is never noticeable; This applies neither to the affection nor to the sudden alienation, which would, however, be particularly important for the story to develop its emotional punch in the last third. Instead, this children’s-friendly cinema adventure just amounts to an endless amount of noise, which at times is even so brutal that it might be a tad too exciting for the very little ones (by the way, this also applies to the introduction in which Tabaluga’s parents die). Finally, all that remains is to take a look at the technical presentation and it at least turns out to be reasonably confident. With its mix of pop-up book look and classic 3D animation, it creates a nice overall picture, although it doesn’t come close to meeting current technical standards.
Conclusion: With “Tabaluga – The Film”, the little green dragon written by Peter Maffay manages to make the jump to the big screen, but apart from the well-known songs and nice animation, the film has little to offer due to the very loveless story.
“Tabaluga – The Film” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from December 6th.