Abominable tells the story of young Yi (Chloe Bennett) who inadvertently discovers a yeti on her rooftop. Naming him Everest after the famed mountain region that he calls home, Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. However, along the course of the perilous journey, the young adventurers must also be on their guard to protect Everest from a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who will stop at nothing to capture the beast for their own gain.
Written and directed by Jill Culton (Open Season), Abominable’s release came in the midst of an avalanche of animated fare about the yeti. As the third (!) film in the last two years to reacquaint children with the legendary snowbeast, Abominable ran the risk of oversaturating the market and simply blending into the background. Thankfully, the film’s stunning animation and emotional character arc help it to stand out in the crowd in the best of ways. Visually, Abominable is simply stunning, filling the screen with vibrant colours and images that are often a feast for the eyes. Featuring lush backgrounds and bold colours, the landcapes often engulf its characters, especially as the children move closer to their destination. (Ironically, immersive work on natural surroundings is so good that cityscapes sometimes feel jarring in style.) Appropriately, however, some of the best animation is reserved for Everest, the Abominable himself. Even in 2D animation, extensive work on Everest’s wistful fur and lovable facial expressions bring him to life in an almost tactile way. (Honestly, I can’t remember the last time that I felt a character was soft and cuddly enough onscreen to feel warmer just by watching him…)
Central to the story is the relationship between Everest and Yi as they embark on a journey that will offer far more than adventure. Grieving the loss of her father, Yi is a young woman on the go. She works multiple jobs and only takes cash so that she can keep true knowledge of her profits to herself. Though her mother and grandmother wish that she would slow down, Yi remains determined to raise enough money to finally take an extended trip like she and her father always intended. Of course, when she meets Everest, everything changes and her determination to see him return to his home takes priority.
Interestingly, both Yi and Everest find themselves on similar journeys in search for a home. While Everest is looking to find his family in his literal home, Yi’s home simply has not felt the same since the loss of her father. Her hustle serves to keep her preoccupied as she struggles to process her feelings. Nevertheless, we soon discover that the true power of Yi’s ‘magic’ lies in its ability to bring life where death has laid waste. This proves to be an appropriate counterbalance to the broken and weary Yi whose soul lies barren due to her grief and pain. Though they come from different worlds, the true beauty of their relationship lies in their ability to provide a safe home for one another that breathes life into their lonely hearts. For both Yi and Everest, they are able to meet the pain and anxiety of the other with grace and safety in a way that also breathes life into their lives. As such, Yi’s initial hustle slowly gives way to a healing of the soul.
In light of this, Abominable proves to have been one of the most unexpected surprises of my year. While the film has all the humour for children that one would expect from modern animated fare, it’s the film’s unique and powerful message of hope in the midst of struggle that helps Abominable become so much more than ‘another yeti movie’. Though the young characters venture deep into the cold, there’s a warmth at the core of the film that offers hope for any weary soul.
While the disc may appear to lack special features (stating “and many more” on the cover rarely means it), the Blu-ray release has a surprising amount of extras for those who dig around. Deleted scenes and shorts are fairly typical for this sort of thing but feature commentaries are always welcome. Some of the standouts on the disc include “Courage to Dream”, a look at challenging cultural and gender biases within the film, and Cooking with NaiNai, featuring Tsai Chin and Chef Shirley as they walk through their recipe for pork buns. There are also features on voicing the characters and, if your inner child wishes to speak Yeti, there is also a short that teaches you the various grunts and groans Everest uses to communicate.
Abominable storms onto 4K and Blu-ray on December 17th, 2019 and is now available on VOD.