Flushed Away is a 2006 British-American computer-animated adventure comedy film directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell, produced by Cecil Kramer, David Sproxton, and Peter Lord, and written by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan and Will Davies. It was the third and final DreamWorks Animation film co-produced with Aardman Animations following Chicken Run (2000) and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), and was the first Aardman project completely made in computer-animation as opposed to their usual stop motion standard. The film stars the voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Ian McKellen, Shane Richie and Jean Reno. In Flushed Away, a pet rat named Roddy St. James is flushed down the toilet by a sewer rat, and befriends a scavenger named Rita in order to return home while evading a toad and his rat henchmen.
The film was released in the United States by Paramount Pictures on 3 November 2006, and in the United Kingdom on 1 December 2006. Despite receiving positive reviews on Metacritic, Flushed Away underperformed at the box office, prompting DreamWorks to end their partnership with Aardman. The film received nominations for the BAFTA Award and Critics' Choice Award for Best Animated Feature. It also got 8 nominations at the 34th Annie Awards, winning a leading 5, including Writing in a Feature Production, and Voice Acting in a Feature Production.
- This is the final DreamWorks Animation film co-produced by Aardman. (2000-2006-2021)
- This is Aardman's first CGI movie, followed by Arthur Christmas.
- This is the only Aardman film to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.
- Le Frog
Roddy St. James is a decidedly upper crust pet rat who makes his home in a posh Kensington flat. When a common sewer rat named Sid comes spewing out of the sink and decides to stay, especially as England are playing Germany in the FIFA World Cup final, Roddy schemes to get rid of Sid by luring him into the "jacuzzi", which is actually the toilet bowl. Sid may be an ignorant slob, but being a sewer rat, he knows his plumbing. He plays along and instead pushes Roddy in and flushes him away into the drains.
There, Roddy meets Rita Malone, an enterprising scavenger rat who works the drains in her faithful boat, the Jammy Dodger. Rita does not like Roddy initially, but ends up taking him along as The Toad sends his henchmen, Spike and Whitey, after her because she had stolen back her father's prized ruby a long time ago. The Toad despises all rodents to the point of hateful obsession, blaming rats for his fall from grace (he was once Prince Charles' pet). He decides to have them frozen with liquid nitrogen. However, The Toad's plan fails. Worse, during their escape, Rita takes a unique electrical cable. The cable is required to control the Floodgates. The Toad's evil plan is to open the gates during halftime of the World Cup, drowning the rats and their underground city in sewage. He can then use the depopulated city as a home for millions of his own tadpole offspring.
Roddy finds that the ruby is a fake and breaks it in front of Rita, enraging her, for she can now not get the money she needs for her large family. Roddy offers her a real ruby if she takes him back to Kensington. Accepting the offer, the pair first stop to visit her family before setting off. During Roddy's stay, he overhears a conversation that causes him to think that Rita had double-crossed him, so he steals the Jammy Dodger. When Rita catches up to him, he is able to clear up the misunderstanding.
The pair evade Spike and Whitey pursuing in a remote-controlled toy boat, with Thimblenose Ted and others on eggbeater jet skis. During this scene, Roddy and Rita share a quick love moment. Incensed at his minions’ repeated failures, The Toad sends to France for his cousin; an infamous, if somewhat laid back, mercenary known as Le Frog. Le Frog and his subordinates intercept the duo and retrieve the cable, but Roddy and Rita use a plastic bag to lift themselves out of the sewer (snatching away the cable during the ascent) and get Roddy home, though the Jammy Dodger has to be sacrificed.
Back home, Roddy pays Rita the promised ruby and an emerald, then proceeds to show her around his house. She at first believes he has family in the home, but noticing his cage, she realizes he's a pet. Roddy tries to pass Sid off as his brother, but Sid and Rita know each other. Rita tries to persuade Roddy to come with her, but he is too proud to admit that he is lonely. By now, they have fallen in love but have not told each other their feelings. She departs, both of them broken-hearted, but is soon captured by The Toad.
Talking to Sid about half-time, Roddy pieces together The Toad's plan. He gives Sid his cushy position and has Sid flush him back to the sewers to find Rita and save the city. Together, they defeat The Toad and freeze the wave of sewage generated by the flushing of countless toilets during the FIFA World Cup half-time with liquid nitrogen before it drowns the entire rat population.
Rita and Roddy build the Jammy Dodger Mark Two and set off in her with Rita's entire brood. A newspaper article reveals England had lost on penalties. Rita and Roddy become boyfriend and girlfriend. Later while the credits start, Roddy's former owner comes back with a new pet (a cat), which frightens Sid.
The film's original concept involved pirates, and was pitched to DreamWorks Animation soon after the release of Chicken Run in 2000. However, Aardman were told that there was no market for pirate films (this was before Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl of Disney was released to great success in 2003), and were told to modernise the concept. By the time the rewrite was done, the project had to be postponed to make way for the production of Viacom's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; it was finally released after not only the original Pirates of the Caribbean, but also its first sequel.
The film's working title was Ratropolis, but it was changed due to its similarity to Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille. In Spain, the movie was released as Ratónpolis (ratón is Spanish for "mouse"). The Latin-American title for the film was Lo que el agua se llevó ("Gone with the Water"), a pun on Gone with the Wind.
Traditionally, Aardman have used stop-motion for their animated features, but it is very complex to render water with this technique, and using real water can damage plasticine models. It would have been very expensive to composite CGI into shots that include water, of which there are many in the movie, so they chose to make Flushed Away their first all-CGI production. The characters still resemble Aardman's classic characters, as the designs were taken straight from the original plasticine models. Several techniques were employed to give the impression of stop-motion animation, such as using replacement mouths for lip-synch rather than the interpolation typically seen in computer animation.
The film underwent many changes and versions, resulting in an inflated budget. For example, Roddy originally had two hamster manservants named Gilbert and Sullivan that were featured heavily in early trailers.
This is the final of the three Aardman-produced films. Aardman's experience during the making of the film led to a split between the two studios.
Flushed Away was released on DVD 20 February 2007. It included behind the scenes, deleted info, Jammy Dodger videos and all new slug songs. It was released in the UK on 2 April 2007, where it was also packaged with a plasticine 'Slug Farm' kit. The film was released on Blu-ray by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on 4 June 2019.
In July 2014, the film's distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures and transferred to 20th Century Fox before reverting to Universal Studios in 2018.
The idea for a film about rats which fall in love in a sewer was proposed by animator Sam Fell during the production of Aardman Animations' Chicken Run (2000). At the time, Aardman encouraged everyone at the company to come up with ideas for features for the DreamWorks partnership. Fell, development executive Mike Cooper, and producer Peter Lord then developed the concept into a story before pitching it to DreamWorks. Lord described the pitch as "The African Queen with the gender roles reversed". Comic writing duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were contracted to write the script, which had the working title Ratropolis.
Traditionally, Aardman have used stop-motion for their animated features, but it is complex to render water with this technique, and using real water can damage plasticine models. It would have been expensive to composite CGI into shots that include water, of which there are many in the movie, so they chose to make Flushed Away their first all-CGI production. This is the third and final of three Aardman-produced films released by DreamWorks. Aardman's experience with DreamWorks during the making of the film led to a split between the two studios.
Flushed Away has a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of 6.71/10 based on 137 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Clever and appealing for both children and adults, Flushed Away marks a successful entry into digital animated features for Aardman Animations." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 74, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Todd McCarthy of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying "As directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell, first-time feature helmers with long-term Aardman affiliations, the film boasts undeniably smart and eye-catching qualities that are significantly diluted by the relentlessly frantic and overbearing behavior of most characters; someone is always loudly imposing himself upon another, to diminishing returns of enjoyment." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+, saying "Flushed Away lacks the action-contraption dottiness of a Wallace and Gromit adventure, but it hits its own sweet spot of demented delight." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "It's better than 90% of the animated fare of the last few years. It's refreshing not to have to qualify the movie's appeal by appending the words, 'for the kids'." Jan Stuart of Newsday gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Despite the efforts of five writers and Aardman's trademark puppets, with their malleable eyebrows and cheeks bulging like those of a mumps sufferer, none of these characters are particularly endearing." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying "Flushed Away, Aardman's first computer-generated cartoon, does away with the clay but leaves the craft and emotion intact, resulting in a film that earns its place among the Aardman classics." Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The short attention spans of directors David Bowers and Sam Fell are mostly forgivable because the movie is filled with so many entertaining characters."
Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a negative review, saying "Deficient in the comedy of reticence discouragement that is Aardman's (or maybe just Nick Park's) unique strength. I don't want to say the Englishmen were corrupted, but I think they allowed their strongest, quirkiest instincts to be tethered." Ted Fry of The Seattle Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Fans of Wallace and Gromit may be puzzled by a visual disconnect in Flushed Away. They will certainly, however, be delighted by the unrelenting whimsy and fast-paced gags of a story that never slows down to think about where it's going next." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "Kids will probably be in stinky-sewage heaven with the new computer-animated critter comedy Flushed Away, but even they may realize they're up the proverbial creek in a boat with a faulty motor." Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Though Flushed Away duplicates the stop-motion, clay animation look of Aardman's earlier Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit, it was made using computer software and its liberated action sequences are truly dazzling." Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "How this thing got made in Hollywood is a mystery, but I laughed at most of it, especially the mean stereotypes about the French and the even meaner stereotype about England's soccer team."
Flushed Away collected $64.5 million in the United States, which was below the average of other CGI films from DreamWorks Animation, and $111.8 million from international markets for a worldwide total of $176.3 million. The film opened to number three in its first weekend, with $18,814,323, behind Borat and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. Produced on a budget of $149 million, poor box office reception resulted in a $109-million write-down for DreamWorks Animation, and in turn a termination of the partnership with Aardman Animations.