“The Hero of Color City” is a computer-animated cartoon that looked good enough on paper to attract the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Craig Ferguson, Christina Ricci, Rosie Perez and Sean Astin among others.
Five credited screenwriters later, it comes out as a colorless affair, a crayon box version of “Toy Story” suitable only for the littlest tykes.
After six-year-old Ben goes to bed, his crayons pick themselves up and skip off through a magic door in the crayon box into Color City, an alternate universe where they renew their colors and pointy caps in the spa, and get to relax and be themselves.
Their personalities match their colors. Black is always in a dark mood, grizzled old man Grey goes on about “in MY day,” White is bland, Tutti Fruity giggles, Refried Beans Brown breaks wind. Seriously.
But cowardly Yellow (Ricci) misses roll call and stumbles into King Scrawl and his buggy sidekick Nat (Craig Ferguson). They’re unfinished drawings, desperate for a little color, fearing the day when they’re tossed in the waste basket. They follow Yellow into Color City and create havoc once they arrive.
The crayons have to work together to solve their problems — and stop for a song, here and there.
The story may be Pixar-simple, and the jokes carry a faint hint of Dreamworks wit.
“Colors are runnin’ faster’n a red sock in a washin’ machine!”
“You really saved my wrapper!”
But “Color City” is thin gruel, even by recent, weaker Pixar standards.
Ferguson, cutting loose from the small voice role he’s had in the “How to Train Your Dragon” films, is all puns and pronouncements. They’re all just “pigments of Ben’s imagination,” and he has scores of titular nicknames for King Scrawl, “The Crown Prince of Chiaroscuro, the Head of the Color Wealth.
A couple of lesser known voice actors imitate Woody Allen and Jerry “Hey LAY-deee” Lewis.
Nothing the target audience here will pick up on. Adults will relish those incredibly rare moments of wit, and the 76 minute running time.
MPAA Rating: unrated, suitable for general audiences
Cast: The voices of Christina Ricci, Owen Wilson, Craig Ferguson, Rosie Perez
Credits: Directed by Frank Gladstone, screenplay by Jess Kedward, J.P. McCormick, Kirsty Peart, Rich Raczelowski and Evan Spiliotopoulos. A Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:16