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Fans may still be processing the emotional goodbye to Hiccup and Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon 3 earlier this year. Keep those tears flowing! Dreamworks and Pearl Studio's upcoming release Abominable is not only a visually-impressive epic adventure through China, but a poignant story about reconnecting to family through the lens of a teen girl and a lost Yeti.
CinemaBlend was recently invited to the Dreamworks campus in Glendale, California to preview portions of the film, and it was completely emotionally effective – even without full context of what Abominable has to offer. A combination of chills and tears were had the roughly 20 minutes we witnessed. It really looks like something special. From what I learned when I sat down with writer and co-director Jill Culton, it’s no wonder why. Here’s what she said:
I worked at Pixar for about a decade and I think I learned a lot about story there. One of the things I love about working there is everyone there was so focused on heart, emotion and weren’t afraid to deal with difficult subject matters. I wanted to make sure this film had something that families could leave the theater and talk about afterwards. Even though the subject matter is difficult to deal with, there’s hope on the other side of it.
Jill Culton worked on Pixar’s first original projects (Toy Story 1 & 2 and A Bug’s Life )in various roles, but this is the first time she’s written and directed a feature. This movie is deeply personal to her and she made an intentional effort not to make it a “babysitter film.”
As Dreamworks showed us, Abominable will follow Yi, a hard-working teen jumping from multiple jobs while living in a big city in China and saving up to travel the world following her father’s death. She finds a Yeti on her rooftop, who was hiding there because he was being hunted. The two form an unlikely bond through their love of music. Yi plays the violin for the injured beast and he unexpectedly hums along.
As they go on the run, her longtime neighbors Jin and Peng end up joining in on the adventure to return Everest the Yeti to his home in the Himalayas, stopping along on breathtaking sites throughout China on their way. As they reach the third act of their adventure, I found myself incredibly emotionally attached to their journey, namely Yi’s.
When I was Yi’s age, my parents went through a pretty terrible divorce. My dad left the home and it felt like a death to me because he was no longer part of our lives, he loved to travel and taught me everything. I think in this film, it was my own artistic version of dealing with that.
The writer/director assured us that Abominable isn’t a "dead parent" movie; it’s about Yi reconnecting with her family. Between discovering Everest’s magical powers and building relationships with the other kids on her adventure, it has her witnessing an emotional catharsis to her grief. Jill Culton decided she could relate this to the audience through Yi’s violin playing. In her words:
As a writer, sometimes you sit down and write these little goodbye speeches and you think ‘this is so trite, this is so corny and how is it going to relate to an audience if it’s so specific?’ So with violin, it’s an instrument that’s a voice and I just thought people are going to read their own into this.
Bring on the waterworks!! Abominable looks to have just about everything we want from an animated film, and a meaningful emotional core is really what separates the good ones from the greats such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Coco and Moana.
Are you excited for Dreamworks’ upcoming project? Sound off in the comments and check out Abominable in theaters on September 27 and more exciting movie releases coming in 2019.