I love animated Disney movies. Generally speaking, they are among the finest films around, with intelligent story telling, memorable characters and beautifully wrought art.
But that doesn't mean that other animated fare - movies that don't have the luxury of expansive marketing campaigns - aren't worthwhile. "Alpha and Omega" may be one of those shows that suffers from the lack of a Disney brand and Disney-sized advertising.
Alpha and Omega, incidentally, are not the names of the main characters. They're references to wolf packs, one of whom feels superior to the other. The packs do not mix - an Alpha falling in love with an Omega, for example, is unthinkable for both packs.
Humphrey (voice of Justin Long) is a fun-loving young Omega wolf who enjoys hanging out with his boisterous buddies. Kate (Hayden Panettiere) is all Alpha. Serious and smart, she is a lupine gymnast, who has all the right moves, and then some, for the hunt. Kate enjoys the discipline of training, whereas Humphrey would rather go sledding in hollowed-out logs.
Both packs vie for the caribou that are not as plentiful as they once were. Pack leaders Winston (Danny Glover) and Tony (the late Dennis Hopper) argue about what they can do to possibly bring the packs together for better hunting.
Even though such a tryst is forbidden, Humphrey can't keep his eyes off the lovely Kate. During a group howl at the moon, Humphrey does manage to take Kate aside for a brief conversation. During this, they both receive tranquilizer darts and end up being transported to Idaho, where they are supposed to repopulate the diminishing wolf population there.
When they come to, Kate and Humphrey simply want to go home. And they begin to realize they must work together to achieve their shared goal. They are assisted by a French-Canadian goose (Larry Miller) and his sidekick caddy (Eric Price), who tell them that they can return home by train if they time it just right.
While the characters aren't necessarily cute and cuddly - they're wolves, after all - they are appealing. I like the way the screenplay gives Kate strength and agility. Instead of making her the weaker character who relies on Humphrey, it's quite the opposite, which is refreshing.
Also refreshing is the lack of lyrics. There is music indeed when the wolves howl, but it's beautiful, wordless choral music - unique and lovely, as are the scenes of the wilderness and the caribou.
Incidentally, I saw it in 3D. The effects weren't outstanding but they did add to the fun.
Disney doesn't produce the only animated movies worth howling about.