Flora & Ulysses Celebrates Comics and Community
You might be surprised to see the Silver Surfer on screen just moments after pressing play on Flora & Ulysses, but the fact that the squirrel in the cover photo is performing a distinctive “superhero landing” should have been your first clue!
The Story of Flora & Ulysses
Flora & Ulysses is based on a novel by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell, titled Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, and it feels like a combination of one of those classic “Disney animal movies,” like Homeward Bound or The Shaggy D.A., mixed with the mythical imagery of comic books.
The story follows Flora (Matilda Lawler), a cynical 10-year-old who escapes inside comics to avoid the realities of her home situation: her parents have separated, her mother (Alyson Hannigan) is a struggling writer, and her father a struggling comic book creator who has a bad boss at a retail job.
But when a runaway robot vacuum sucks up a squirrel, Flora is present to intervene at just the right moment – and when the rescued squirrel wakes up, he has a new lease on life – along with some pretty impressive powers (Squirrel Girl fans: think Tippy-Toe)!
Flora names the newly awakened squirrel “Ulysses,” and declares herself to be his sidekick (after getting him some trail mix – hey, even super squirrels get hungry).
Thanks to comic books, Flora knows that as a superhero Ulysses just needs to find his purpose, and she sets about helping him do just that. Naturally, this leads to complications with Flora’s already complicated family, and I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything by saying that by the end of this movie, you will have cried for one reason or another – whether it’s affectionate animals or found family, they’re going to get you eventually!
Tons of Allusions, Michael
Flora & Ulysses is positively crammed with references to Marvel Comics, with allusions taking the form of everything from Ulysses adopting Spider-Man’s distinctive hanging pose to the fact that Flora’s family has a small painting of Captain America’s shield where you might expect to see a mezuzah.
And it isn’t just Marvel Comics that get references: Flora & Ulysses is a celebration of all things comic books, with a copy of one of DC’s flagship comics, Batman, even making an appearance at one point.
Furthermore, the movie is littered with jokes that take the form of background signs and store names. Plus, there are tons of text-based jokes that call to mind the gags in comics and animated shows like The Simpsons, which was not-coincidentally created by cartoonist Matt Groening.
Plus, there are other references to plenty of non-comics pop culture icons, too: keep your eyes peeled for a cute reference to the first Pixar movie, Toy Story, and keep your ears peeled for a musical cue that first appeared in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back.
Might Solve a Mystery
But my single favorite reference in the whole movie comes from some meta casting so good it would make WandaVision impressed!
This allusion pays homage to DuckTales, which itself builds on the long legacy of Scrooge McDuck, who first appeared in the Disney duck comics by Carl Barks (in fact, Barks created Scrooge, Duckburg, and many of the characters who will be familiar to fans of DuckTales).
The original DuckTales animated series began airing in 1991, and in 2017, a reboot was launched, featuring Danny Pudi as Huey, Ben Schwartz as Dewey, Bobby Moynihan as Louie, and Kate Micucci as Webby.
All four of the voice actors who appear as the McDuck kids on the 2017 DuckTales play on-screen roles in Flora & Ulysses – and lest you be tempted to dismiss this as a coincidence, one of the very first comic books you see on-screen in the movie is an issue of DuckTales #15 by Marco Ghiglione (cover artist), Joe Caramagna (author), Ciro Cangialosi (artist), Danilo Loizedda (artist), Cristina Stella (artist), Luca Usai (artist), and Lucio De Giuseppe (colorist), published by IDW.
Plus, if any doubt remains, the issue’s appearance in the movie is accompanied by Moynihan delivering a very-Louiesque “hoo boy.”
Check out Flora & Ulysses
You can stream Flora & Ulysses, which is rated PG, on Disney+ right now! And here at Marvel Blog, we’d love to know what YOU thought of the movie, so please let us know in the comment section!