Review: Tugger – Tugger: The Jeep 4 × 4 Who Wanted to Fly (2005)

Directed by: Jeffrey James Varab | 65 minutes | animation, family | Original Voice Cast: James Belushi, Scott ‘Carrot Top’ Thompson, Bridget Hoffman, Lance LeGault, Tom Kinney, Peter Renaday, Wendy Cutler, Robert Clotworthy, Steve Bulen, Newell Alexander, Gary Bosco, Riff Hutton, Edie Mirman, Michael Sorich | Dutch voice cast: Johnny Kraaijkamp jr.

In this more American than American animation film, we get to know Tugger, a 4 × 4 Jeep that served as a means of transport for the American soldiers during World War II, who ensured that the world’s population can enjoy their freedom … In a short – with simple drawings illustrated – introduction, the history of these jeeps and in particular that of Tugger is explained. Tugger did a good job during the war, but unfortunately got damaged. However, an inventive mechanic decides to replace the broken part with an airplane propeller. This makes the jeep one step closer to realizing his dream: Tugger wants to fly!

After the war, Tugger finds a new home: a small airfield, where he befriends Shorty, a radio. He makes himself useful by taxiing planes safely on the runway and escorting them to the hangar. Surrounded by airplanes, Tugger keeps hoping that he will be able to explore the skies again. As befits dreamers, Tugger is not believed by one half and encouraged by the other half of his environment. Mom and Dad, for example, two old-fashioned gas pumps at the airport, are constantly arguing with each other about what to do with Tugger. Shorty often tries to dampen his friend’s enthusiasm, but eventually sees that it is not wrong to keep hoping that dreams will one day come true.

‘Tugger’ is very nicely animated at times; at other times the scenes are tremendously rushed. Unfortunately! The dream sequence – with bright colors – seems inspired by Walt Disney, and the moral of the story could also have come from that studio. That is not very strange, by the way, director Jeffrey James Varab worked on ‘The Fox and the Hound’ (‘Frank and Frey’) and ‘Mulan’ (1998) as character and supervising animator respectively). One of the four (!) Screenwriters worked on ‘Brother Bear’, for the other three writers ‘Tugger’ meant their debut. The story that is presented to the young viewer is therefore very meager. Tugger’s life story could easily be told in a short episode à la “Thomas the Tank Engine” or “Bob the Builder”, but the story is stretched regularly. There are a number of details for adults that will not be noticed by the youth: Shorty is called that because he is a shortwave radio. Furthermore, the meaning of the posters on the wall and the entire war background will pass to preschoolers. For the adults watching, there is not much that will hold the attention, but for children the film is harmless entertainment.

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