Headin' South is a 1942 American animated musical comedy-adventure film produced by Dora Wilson Productions, in an partnership with MGM Cartoon Studio (as the two studios' first full-length feature film), and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The film released on June 11, 1942. The film had received positive reviews, but was a poor performance commercially and wasn't released outside from United States due to World War II. It eventually made a profit in its 1946 reissue and became a cult classic after its re-releases on theaters, television airings and home video releases and is now considered one of the greatest animated films ever made, with a rare 100% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. Headin' South was added to the United States National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Two direct-to.video sequels Headin' South Again and Headin' South Pole were released in 2002 and 2010, respectively.
A mallard duckling named Janice (voiced by Shirley Temple) embarks towards south to find and save her lost flock of wild ducks, including her parents, after realizing the absence of their return from three-month migration. Aided by a raccoon named Ringo (voiced by Phil Silvers), she faces the challenges and dangers that could stand her way in her quest.
In Duck Square, Iowa, a little female duckling named Janice is finally off from school for the upcoming winter season. On their way back home, one of Janice’s friends, Otto the otter, gets his kite stuck in a tree, so Janice climbs up to retrieve the kite as Otto, Possi the possum, and Digger the mole watch her for safety. Janice then approaches a hawk's nest in the tree. The massive hawk then woke up after Janice successfully got her hand on Otto's kite from the nest. Janice and her friends flee while the hawk chases after them until Mallard, Janice's father, saves the young critters from the ferocious bird and takes Janice home. He and his wife Millard remind her that they are both are heading south with other ducks to migrate, and Millard makes a call to Grandpa Duck to come and babysit Janice once they're gone. After Grandpa Duck arrives, Millard and Mallard take off, catching up with the other flocks while Janice sadly watches and wishes she can go to south despite being told by her parents that she's too young.
When winter arrived, Janice plays in the snow with Otto, Possi and Digger by ice skating and building the largest snowman until a blizzard happens, leading to the animals back home. Sometime between spring and summer, the ducks, however, didn't return from migration, which worries both Janice and Grandpa Duck. They set out to find them, and to do that, they must take a train to south since both ducks can't fly. However, one morning after Janice and Grandpa Duck located a safe spot to sleep for the night, Grandpa Duck passes away in his sleep due to his old age, much to the dismay of his granddaughter.
Janice is now on her own but as her journey continues, she gets lost and is chased by the same hawk until getting saved by a raccoon named Ringo. After Janice tells Ringo about her journey, the raccoon agrees to take Janice to a railroad station he knows about. Upon arriving at the station, Janice and Ringo unfortunately realize they don’t have money to pay for a ticket, so the solution is to sneak inside one of the human passengers’ luggage to reach inside the one of the cars. In one of the cars, Janice and Ringo are hidden behind the luggage on top of the overhead baggage net and they wait for their arrival in South Louisiana. While on their way, however, Ringo’s aid for Janice sadly reminds her of her grandfather as she wishes that he‘d be with her if it weren’t for his death. Ringo cheers her up by playing his banjo for his song until Janice feels superior.
30 days later, the train has finally reached Louisiana, so Janice and Ringo hide in a woman's baggage to sneak off the train unnoticed. However, they are accidentally discovered while getting off the loading station and quickly flee, avoiding getting caught by the pest control. Successful in their escape, Janice and Ringo continue on their journey to look for the ducks, only to Janice to get captured by red fox Sly DeFox and his hungry henchmen, ill-tempered bobcat Robert Wildcat and mute snake Silly Snake. They try to devour her, but Ringo ends up in a comical rescue mission to save Janice from them.
The duo stops at an abandoned steamboat, which houses the Steamboat Saloon theater restaurant, and Ringo introduces Janice to Mr. Gobble, the turkey owner of Steamboat Saloon, and the restaurant’s performers such as Robert Rabbit, the rabbit pianist, and the singing trio, Craney, the crane, Ratso, the rat, and Armadilla, the armadillo. Janice and Ringo tell everyone about their quest.
The Steamboat Saloon inhabitants agree to help Janice as they know where the ducks are located. On the continued quest, Janice suddenly gets separated from Ringo and his gang by the rapids. Afterwards, Janice finds herself in a field, where she then finds her parents and the rest of the flock are in cruel captivity in the new and upcoming butcher shop run by a red wolf owner named Wolfard Wolf; he captured the ducks and lock them a large cage in his shop. As Janice tries to free the ducks, she gets caught and is forced in captivity as well by Wolfard, who tells the ducks that during two to three days by the time his new butcher shop will make his grand opening, he plan to kill all of them both as his meal and to sell them to the customers, much to the ducks‘ dismay.
Meanwhile, Ringo and the gang are on search for Janice, only to be under the attack by the hawk, who followed Janice and Ringo. Ringo then fights off the bird before he and his friends shift their focus back to finding Janice. At night, Ringo and his pals locate Wolfward’s butcher shop, where they quietly free Janice, her parents and the other ducks from cages. However, Robert accidentally sneezes loudly causing Wolfard to wake up and see the flock escaping. While the ducks are free, Janice gets recaptured by Wolfard and taken away in his van. Ringo and Mallard chase after Wolfard to save Janice.
The duo cuts open the top of Wolfard’s van and rescues Janice, only to be discovered and caught by Wolfard. As the four suddenly end up on the cliff, Wolfard’s van drops down below. Ringo and Mallard put up a fight against the wolf while Janice is about to escape by trying to fly, but watches helplessly as Wolfard knocks Mallard unconscious (followed by injuring his wing) and is attempting to end Ringo’s life by tilting a tree towards his doom. But in courage, Janice stops Wolfard by blinding him to save Ringo. While Ringo escapes from the leaning tree, Janice and Wolfard end up falling down from the cliff, with the tree as it cause to tilt down by them, to Ringo and Mallard’s horror.
Disheartened for what seems to be the death of Janice, the two climb up back to the top and, along with Ringo’s friends, Millard and other ducks, mope for the loss of Janice. But Janice still lives, successfully attempted her first flight as she flies up back the top, much to the joy of Ringo, his pals, her parents and the other ducks. Janice thanks her friends for their help on the long and dangerous search, as she tearfully says and hugs goodbye to everyone, before taking off in flight back to the North with other ducks, along with Mallard, with his wing bandage, being carried by the ambulance ducks.
Development of Headin’ South started in early 1938, a year after Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hollywood’s first full-length animated motion picture, was a critical and commercial success, which caught the attention of Dora Wilson, who had her willing to produce her own animated feature to replicate Disney's success. She first asked Republic Pictures, the distributor of Dreamtoons shorts, to be the distributor for her first animated full-length project, but turned down. Wilson asked many other movie studios for an distributing deal for her film such as Paramount, Columbia, United Artists and 20th Century Fox, which also rejected it, until Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) agreed her and TBD
Fellow animation producers Walter Lantz, Paul Terry and Leon Schlesinger all also considered producing animated feature films, but after seeing the disappointing box-office performances of Walt Disney's new films Pinocchio and Fantasia (both 1940) and Max Fleischer's Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941), they cancelled any potential animated feature projects. However, Dora Wilson was the only of them who still had continued the project.
Characters and cast
- Janice Duck - Voiced by Shirley Temple; the film's main protagonist who is an adventurous, innocent, coy, and optimistic young yellow female mallard duckling.
- Ringo - Voiced by Phil Silvers; a fast-talking, easy-going, music-loving raccoon who befriends Janice.
- Mallard Duck - Voiced by Pinto Colvig; Janice's father who is often lazy, clumsy, silly, but serious.
- Millard Duck - Voiced by Barbara Jo Allen; Janice's mother.
- Grandpa Duck - Voiced by Mel Blanc; an elder duck who is Janice's grandfather and Millard's father, who is retired from flying and has his job to babysit Janice, while Millard and Mallard left.
- Mr. Gobble - Voiced by Bert Lahr; a turkey who is the owner of Steamboat Saloon.
- Craney, Ratso and Armadilla - Voiced by Ray Bolger, Mel Blanc and Vivien Leigh; the crane, rat and armadillo trio performers for Steamboat Saloon.
- Robert Rabbit - Voiced by Billy Gilbert; a piano playing rabbit in Steamboat Saloon and also a friend of Ringo.
- Otto - Voiced by Dickie Jones; a boy otter who is Janice's classmate.
- Digger - Voiced by George McFarland; a boy mole who is Janice's classmate.
- Possi - Voiced by Cammie King; a girl possum who is Janice's classmate.
- Mr. Owl - Voiced by Walter Catlett; an owl who is Janice's teacher.
- Hawk - a bird of prey and the film's main antagonist who often follows Janice in her journey, attempting to eat her, but failed as it later got defeated at the end.
- Sly DeFox - Voiced by Vincent Price; a red fox who attempts to capture Janice for their meal by tricking her, but gets defeated by her and Ringo and get arrested by the police at the end. He later made a cameo appearance in Shrek as one of the exiled fairytale creatures (as well as the same fox from Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio).
- Robert Wildcat - Voiced by Billy Bletcher; an serious bobcat and one of Sly DeFox's henchmen.
- Silly Snake - a mute, dimwitted snake and one of Sly DeFox's henchmen.
- Wolfward Wolf - Voiced by Edward G. Robinson; a scarred, cigar-smoking timber wolf gangster and butcher, who own his butcher shop, as the film's true main antagonist who has kidnapped all the ducks (including Janice's parents) to put them in captivity at his duck farm, as he plan to kill all of the ducks as meat to sell them, and sometime for himself. He ends up falling to his death while battling Janice. He bears similarities to Carface Caruthers from DreamWorks' later animated film All Dogs Go to Heaven.
Several other characters were scrapped from the final version for any reasons, such as for favor of other characters, to keep the focus on other characters, to avoid controversies and backlashes, to avoid various issues, to re-write, to avoid delays, etc.
- Ally the Gator - a goofy, clumsy yet loyal likable alligator who is one of Ringo’s two sidekicks.
- Clifford the Crow - a crow who is one of Ringo's two sidekicks.
- The Hunter and his Hounds - a human hunter and his pack of hounds.
- Fee and Line - two cats who are attempting to catch Janice. They would be used instead for All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- Elderly Butterfly - a ill-tempered grouchy old butterfly who hates that Janice gets into his property.
- No More School (sung by Janice, voiced by Shirley Temple)
- Headin' South (sung by Janice and Ringo, voiced by Shirley Temple and Phil Silvers)
- Nothing's 'Boutta Distract You (sung by Ringo, voiced by Phil Silvers)
- Southern Medley (sung by the southern critters of Steamboat Saloon, voiced by Ray Bolger, Mel Blanc, Vivien Leigh, Billy Gilbert and the MGM Studio Chorus)
- Whatta Jamboree (My, Oh, My Me) (sung by Janice, Ringo and the critters of Steamboat Saloon, voiced by Shirley Temple, Phil Silvers, Ray Bolger, Mel Blanc, Vivien Leigh, Billy Gilbert and the MGM Studio Chorus)
- Headin' South (Reprise) (sung the the MGM Studio Chorus)
Theatrical re-release dates
- June 12, 1946
- November, 11, 1962 (20th Anniversary)
- November, 11, 1967 (25th Anniversary)
- March 1, 1976
- January 1, 1987 (45th Anniversary)
- November 20, 1992 (50th Anniversary)
- December 1, 1999 (limited release)
- July 12, 2001 (in Argentina; in a double feature with A Thousand Attempts and One Invention)
In 1989, the film was first released on VHS by DreamWorks Home Video, with a distribution deal with MGM/AU Home Video. TBD
In late 2012, Headin' South was re-released on a 70th anniversary DVD/Blu-ray edition released by Paramount Home Entertainment. TBD
In 1947, after the deal between Dora Wilson and MGM was done, the rights of Headin' South were given to Dora Wilson, due to MGM failed to renew the rights of the film.
- Headin' South is the first animated film and the first feature film to be produced by DreamWorks.
- It is also MGM's first animated feature film.
- It is DreamWorks' first joint venture film.
- There are several cameos of the characters appeared in other medias, particularly in other DreamWorks films, such as TBD, The Bre'r Rabbit Tale (1996), TBD, Shrek trilogy (2001-2010), Over the Hedge (2006; Janice and Ringo plushies), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009: as a movie poster), TBD
Sly DeFox: (repeated line) Leave it to Sly DeFox!