Free Birds

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Free Birds
Free Birds poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJimmy Hayward
Screenplay byJimmy Hayward
Scott Mosier
Story byDavid I. Stern
John J. Strauss
Produced byScott Mosier[1]
Edited byChris Cartagena
Music byDominic Lewis[2]
Distributed byRelativity Media
Release date
  • November 1, 2013 (2013-11-01)
Running time
92 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$55 million[4]
Box office$110.4 million[4]

Free Birds is a 2013 American computer-animated science fiction comedy buddy film directed by Jimmy Hayward who co-wrote the screenplay with the film's producer Scott Mosier. The film stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler, with supporting roles done by George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David, and Dan Fogler. It follows Reggie and Jake, two turkeys who travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 as they embark on a mission to get their fellow turkeys off the menu.

Free Birds was produced by Reel FX Creative Studios as its first theatrical fully animated feature film,[5] and Relativity Media (the company's fourth animated film after Monster House (2006), The Tale of Despereaux (2008), and 9 (2009). Originally titled Turkeys,[6] and scheduled for 2014, the film was released on November 1, 2013.

Free Birds received negative reviews from critics and grossing $110.4 million worldwide against a $55 million budget.[7] The film was nominated for the Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Music in a Feature Production, though it lost to the 2013 American computer-animated musical fantasy film, Frozen.


In the present day, Reggie is a turkey who has always feared Thanksgiving because turkeys are always on the menu, but his attempts to warn his flock have made him an outcast. When the other turkeys finally realize what is happening, they throw Reggie outside in an attempt to save themselves. To his surprise, he is named the "pardoned turkey" by the President of the United States and is taken to Camp David. Reggie soon eases into a routine of doing nothing but enjoying pizza from the "Pizza Dude" and watching Mexican telenovelas.

One night, Reggie is kidnapped by Jake, a member of the Turkey Freedom Front, who says he has been instructed by "The Great Turkey" to take Reggie and go back in time to the first Thanksgiving to get turkeys off the menu. They steal a time machine controlled by an A.I. named S.T.E.V.E. (Space Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy) from a Government facility, and time-travel back to three days before the first Thanksgiving in the year of 1621. Once there, they are ambushed by colonial hunters led by Myles Standish, and are rescued by native turkeys led by Chief Broadbeak and his two children, Ranger and Jenny.

Broadbeak explains that turkeys have been forced underground since the settlers came, and orders Jake and Ranger to spy on the settlers while Reggie and Jenny spring the humans' hunting traps. Ranger and Jake discover that the settlers have already begun preparations for Thanksgiving, and where they keep their weapons.

Jenny is unconvinced Reggie is from the future, but is impressed with his accidental unorthodox way of springing traps. They are intercepted by Standish, and Reggie sends Jenny into orbit aboard the time machine, validating his story. Reggie asks Jenny to go back to the future with him once everything blows over, but she refuses to leave the flock no matter how much she likes him.

Jake tells Reggie he has a plan to attack the settlers, and that this trip was more about him making up for his failure to save turkey eggs while escaping a factory farm when he was young, maintaining that the Great Turkey convinced him to go through with this. Reggie reluctantly goes along with the plan. They blow up the weapons shack, but Jake inadvertently leaves a gunpowder trail back to the turkeys' hideout. Standish and his men flush the turkeys out from underground, capturing enough for the feast. Broadbeak sacrifices his life to help the remaining turkeys escape. Disgraced, Reggie returns home, where he discovers from S.T.E.V.E. and three alternate versions of himself that he is the Great Turkey. He travels back in time to send the young Jake on his mission. Jenny is sworn in as the new chief and orders the remaining turkeys to prepare an attack on the settlers.

Jenny, Jake and Ranger lead the turkeys in an attack on the settlement just as Chief Massasoit and his tribe arrive. Reggie goes back in time to stop the attack, inadvertently trapping Standish in the time stream. Through S.T.E.V.E. and the Pizza Dude, Reggie convinces the settlers and Native Americans that pizza is a more acceptable food than turkeys, taking turkeys off the Thanksgiving menu entirely. Reggie decides to stay in the 17th century with Jenny while Jake takes S.T.E.V.E. back to the present to look for new adventures.

In the mid-credits, Jake returns in S.T.E.V.E. moments after leaving Reggie and Jenny. With a chicken and a duck in his wings, Jake starts to tell the turkeys about the turducken, implying that Reggie's actions as well as Standish's "erasure" from history have had unexpected consequences in the present day.


Additional voices by Jeff Biancalana, Jason Finazzo, Jimmy Hayward, and Scott Mosier.


Development on the film, originally titled Turkeys, began in June 2009 and physical production began in January 2011.[8] John Kricfalusi was involved in early development, and posted the concepts he created for the film on his blog.[9][10] Reel FX and Granat Entertainment launched in 2010, Bedrock Studios (later renamed to Reel FX Animation Studios)[11] to produce sub-$35 million family-oriented projects.[12] Ash Brannon was then set to direct the film,[12] but in October 2012, when it was announced that Relativity Media would co-finance, co-produce, and distribute the film, Jimmy Hayward took over the directing position.[1] Originally scheduled for November 14, 2014,[13] the film was moved up by a year to November 27, 2013, due to the vacant slot left after the delay of DreamWorks Animation's Mr. Peabody & Sherman.[8] In March 2013, the film was retitled to Free Birds.


Relativity Media teamed up with five major companies to promote Free Birds, including Kidz Bop 2013, YMCA SCUBA program, Old Navy, and Auntie Anne's. This included a gift set carry bag, a Chuck E. Cheese snap band, and the 'Back in Time' YouTube video featuring WOP and MattyBRaps.[citation needed]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 20% based on 91 reviews and an average rating of 4.3/10. The critics consensus reads: "Technically proficient yet creatively moribund, Free Birds begs unfortunate comparisons with the dim-witted fowl that inspired it."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 38 out of 100 based on reviews from 27 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying "This seemingly innocuous toon fantasy becomes another noxious-but-sanitized exercise in family-friendly cultural insensitivity."[17] Alonso Duralde of The Wrap gave the film a negative review, saying "Even setting aside the film's disregard for time-travel paradoxes and genocide metaphors—trust me, you don't want to wade into either of those—Free Birds just isn't funny."[18] Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice gave the film a negative review, saying "Like so many modern animated features, Free Birds packs too much in; the picture feels cramped and cluttered, and, despite its occasionally manic action, it moves as slowly as a fattened bird waddling toward its doom."[19] Kate Erbland of gave the film a 7.6 out of 10, saying "Free Birds is a more than worthy (and weird) holiday diversion for the whole family."[20] Stephan Lee of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C, saying "Often, you can point to a middling animated film's visuals as its saving grace. But this colonial world, which should feel like an expansive autumnal panorama, feels oddly inert and two-dimensional."[21] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "The 3-D animated film, the first of the holiday entries, is likable and amusing, if slight."[22] Chris Cabin of Slant Magazine gave the film one out of four stars, saying "The film is absent of humor and thrills, and accented with designs and color schemes that are equally notable for their lack of risk."[23]

Sheri Linden of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, saying "Like the ungainly avian creatures at the center of the herky-jerky adventure, this 'toon seldom gets off the ground."[24] Jessica Herndon of the Associated Press gave the film two out of four stars, saying "A solid premiere effort that shows Reel FX's potential to produce quality full-length animation. But the story-line, with its hypothetical constituents, seems a little desperate at times, even for a kiddie film."[25] Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star gave the film one out of four stars, calling the film "A seasonally pegged 3D cartoon bore that sets the bar so low, it could give a slug a concussion."[26] Tom Russo of The Boston Globe gave the film two out of four stars, calling the film "A welcome foray into underexploited territory, conceptually at least."[27] Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film two out of five stars, saying "It isn't cute. It isn't really funny. It just kind of is."[28] Louis Black of The Austin Chronicle gave the film one and a half stars out of five, saying "Free Birds falls flat, despite its good intentions, ideological cuteness, humorous polish, and skillful computer animation. The fine voice talents of the almost-ideal cast are wasted."[29] Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gave the film two out of five stars, saying "Most minor animated movies are so rote that it’s worth acknowledging a strange bird like this cheerfully gonzo kid flick. It’s no masterpiece, but if you’re hoping for a family film that will keep everyone reasonably entertained, this will fly."[30]

Miriam Bale of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying "The concept is insane, and the execution is manic and unoriginal."[31] Sara Stewart of the New York Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Is Hollywood scheming to turn your little ones into strident vegetarians? Could be, but I wish they’d do it with material more inspired than Free Birds, a forgettable—and occasionally borderline offensive—animated tale of turkeys trying to take back Thanksgiving."[32] David Hiltbrand of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Free Birds is a stale turkey hash that heaves a lot of ingredients in the oven but never turns on the gas, a frantic attempt to come up with an animated film built around Thanksgiving Day traditions."[33] Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "The movie's animal rights, vegetarian message should go down easily with politically correct parents—at least until they choke on the offensive depiction of 17th-century turkeys as face-painted, headband-wearing native Americans."[34] Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Finally, there's a movie vegetarian parents can enjoy with their impressionable offspring."[35] Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film one out of four stars, saying "In execution, the film is all sidekicks and sight gags, with little story cohesion or purpose."[36]

Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a mixed review, saying "No, Free Birds is not (sorry) a turkey of a film. But it doesn’t really soar terribly high either. I only wish the quality of the writing in the earlier parts of the movie had been maintained throughout. If that had been the case, Reggie, Jake and their fellow turkeys just might have been flying high with the eagles—our official national birds."[37] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mixed review, saying "Although it seldom approaches the inspiration of its plucky premise—a pair of turkeys travel back in a time machine to the first Thanksgiving in a bid to scratch the traditional entree off the menu—Free Birds nevertheless manages to avoid being branded a holiday turkey."[38] Christy Lemire of gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Everything about Free Birds feels perfunctory, from its generic title and holiday setting to its starry voice cast and undistinguished use of 3-D."[39]

Box office[edit]

Free Birds grossed $55,750,480 in North America, and $54,400,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $110,150,480.[4] In North America, the film opened to number four in its first weekend, with $15,805,237, behind Ender's Game, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and Last Vegas.[40] In its second weekend, the film moved up to number three, grossing an additional $11,112,063.[41] In its third weekend, the film dropped to number four, grossing $8,106,151.[42] In its fourth weekend, the film dropped to number five, grossing $5,363,208.[43]

Home media[edit]

Free Birds was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 4, 2014 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[44]


Free Birds
Soundtrack album by
Dominic Lewis
ReleasedOctober 29, 2013
GenreFilm score
LabelRelativity Music Group
ProducerDominic Lewis
Dominic Lewis film scores chronology
Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury
Free Birds
The Duff
Singles from Free Birds: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "Up Around the Bend"
    Released: 2013

The film's score was composed by Dominic Lewis. The soundtrack was released by Relativity Music Group on October 29, 2013.[45]


  1. ^ a b Abrams, Rachel (October 24, 2012). "Relativity, Reel FX team on 'Turkeys' toon". Variety. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  2. ^ "Dominic Lewis to Score 'Free Birds'". Film Music Reporter. April 20, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "Free Birds (3D)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Free Birds". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  5. ^ Schwartzel, Erich (October 31, 2013). "For Animation Studio, a Hit or Turkey?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 8, 2015. The film will be the 10th animated feature out of Hollywood so far this year, and the first original full-length release for Reel FX,...
  6. ^ Rebecca, Murray (March 27, 2013). "Turkeys is Now Free Birds". Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  7. ^ "Biggest Box-Office Bombs of 2013". Business Insider. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  8. ^ a b Shaw, Lucas (February 22, 2013). "Relativity Moves 'Turkeys' Up a Year; Amy Poehler Joins Voice Cast (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  9. ^ Kricfalusi, John (October 12, 2013). "Free Birds AKA Time Turkeys". Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  10. ^ Kricfalusi, John (October 31, 2013). "Turkey Action". Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  11. ^ Armstron, Josh (August 7, 2013). "Free Birds creators explain why Reel FX's first theatrical feature is no turkey". Animated Views. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Fleming, Mike (March 17, 2010). "Granat/Jones Start Family Friendly Bedrock". Deadline. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  13. ^ McNary, Dave (November 15, 2012). "Relativity, Reel FX set date for 'Turkeys'". Variety. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  14. ^ "Free Birds". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 22, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  15. ^ "Free Birds Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  16. ^ AMY KAUFMAN (November 3, 2013). "'Ender's Game' is No. 1, 'Last Vegas' has better hand than 'Free Birds'". Los Angeles Times. it earned an average grade of A- from moviegoers, and no other films for little kids are slated to be released until Nov. 27.
  17. ^ Chang, Justin (October 23, 2013). "'Free Birds' Review: Turkeys Meet 'Terminator'". Variety. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  18. ^ Duralde, Alonso. "'Free Birds' Review: This Animated Thanksgiving Comedy Is Pure Gobble-dygook". TheWrap. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  19. ^ Stephanie Zacharek. "Manic and Cramped, Free Birds Tries to Offer a Vision of a Kinder, Gentler Thanksgiving – Page 1 – Movies – New York". Village Voice. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  20. ^ Kate Erbland. "Review: 'Free Birds'". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  21. ^ Stephan Lee on. "Free Birds Movie Review | Movie Reviews and News". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Claudia Puig (October 30, 2013). "Funny 'Free Birds' gobbles up Thanksgiving history". USA Today. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  23. ^ "Free Birds | Film Review". Slant Magazine. October 31, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  24. ^ Linden, Sheri (October 31, 2013). "Review: 'Free Birds' lays an egg". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  25. ^ Herndon, Jessica. "Review: Kooky 'Free Birds' fun, but flat – Movies". Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  26. ^ "Free Birds, a turkey of a movie: review | Toronto Star". October 31, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  27. ^ Russo, Tome (October 31, 2013). "'Free Birds' offers an animated Thanksgiving". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 13, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  28. ^ "'Free Birds,' 2 stars". The Arizona Republic. January 12, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  29. ^ "Free Birds – Film Calendar". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  30. ^ "'Free Birds,' movie review". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  31. ^ Bale, Miriam (January 12, 2014). "'Free Birds,' With Voices of Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  32. ^ Stewart, Sara (October 23, 2013). "Fumbling 'Free Birds' may make your kid a vegetarian | New York Post". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  33. ^ David Hiltbrand; Inquirer TV Critic (October 22, 2012). "'Free Birds': A gobble wobble". Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  34. ^ Liam Lacey (November 1, 2013). "Free birds: This undercooked effort leaves bad taste". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  35. ^ Stephanie Merry (October 31, 2013). "Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler give voice to Thanksgiving-themed 'Free Birds'". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  36. ^ Peter Hartlaub (October 16, 2013). "'Free Birds' review: What cheesy product placement". SFGate. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  37. ^ "'Free Birds': Turkeys nicely animated, but the story's undercooked – Chicago Sun-Times". October 31, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  38. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (October 29, 2013). "Free Birds: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  39. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (October 30, 2013). "Free Birds Movie Review & Film Summary (2013)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved November 4, 2013. Since its release, it has been subjected to various internet memes, primarily of the scene where Jake tells Reggie about his mission to go back in time to get turkeys off the menu.
  40. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 1–3, 2013". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  41. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 8–10, 2013". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  42. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 15-17, 2013". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  43. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 22-24, 2013". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  44. ^ "Free Birds Blu-ray". Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  45. ^ "'Free Birds' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved October 22, 2013.

External links[edit]