Squirrel Borough
A teen squirrel falls from her treetop city into an adventure
with a steampunk raven. They raft down the Critterritti River,
leading her home and to the biggest decision of her life.
SCREENPLAY
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David Hundsness
pet[email protected]
Screenplay in Progress
Genre
Animated family musical — coming of age, journey home, buddy film

Setting
Critter version of the 1800’s.

Squirrel Borough — Treetop squirrel version of NYC row-houses and bridges over a river. Wood and brick, no engines, powered by water-wheels.

Raven Steam: Iron Cliff — Steampunk cliffside colony for ravens, mostly iron, like European industrial revolution.

Critterritti River — Like the Mississippi River, Mark Twain era, from log rafts to steam paddle boats, with small towns and an old house on an abandoned island.

Croaken Cove — Cajun frog colony of stilted swamp houses, like a Louisiana bayou.


Characters
Rayli — A squirrel in her final year of high school. She feels pressured to pick a college or career, but she doesn’t really apply herself. She follows her friends, who get her in trouble often.  (American Red Squirrel)

Corva — A steampunk raven from another high school. A foil to Rayli, she knows she wants to be an engineer, but she focuses too much on grades.  (Common Raven, Irish accent)

Pirate Gators — Capt. Toothmouth and his aggravating crew Swash & Swabber who decide to unionize.  (American Alligator, Pirate accent)

Raccoon Con Artists — Mamma Jynx and her kids Swindle, Swizzle, and Fleece.
(Common Raccoon, Boston accent)

Cajun Frogs — Craw, Frolly, and colony of frogs in Croaken Cove.  (Cajun accent)

Steamboat Turtle — Langehorne, a wise old steamboat pilot.  (Georgian accent)


Themes
Encouraging girls to pursue STEM fields.
Being open to opportunity instead of forcing it.
Working for internal satisfaction over external rewards.

Originality
I’ve never seen any other animated films about the final stage of growing up: deciding to leave home and choosing a path — “What do I want to be?”. Many are adjacently about adolescence (Onward, How to Train Your Dragon), leaving for college (Mitchells vs. the Machines), starting a career (Zootopia, Princess and the Frog), or running away (Little Mermaid, Tangled), but this major life decision is unexplored.

Synopsis
Rayli is a high school squirrel playing with her friends. She gets in trouble because of them. After class, her opossum teacher Mrs. Marple asks her if she’s going to college, but she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Mrs. Marple tells her she has a lot of potential but doesn’t apply herself. That evening at dinner, Rayli’s mom complains that her friends are a bad influence. Her father asks her if she’s decided on a college, and suggests med school like her older sister. Frustrated, Rayli goes to her room and sings about wanting to find her spark.

Show more
Next day at lunch, Rayli’s friends prank her, then they dare her to prank a raven they see in their tree. Rayli sneaks up to tie the raven’s claw, but when the raven gets startled and flies away, Rayli gets tangled and pulled out of the tree, then falls into the river and over a waterfall. The raven swoops in to save her, and they splash into the river and swim to an uninhabited island. The raven is angry that her wing is now hurt and she can’t fly home and she’ll miss school. Rayli is angry she was dropped in the river and can’t get home. She learns the raven is Corva, the same age as her.

Later, three pirate alligators come to bury treasure on the island. They see Rayli and Corva and chase them, who escape to an old abandoned raccoon house up a tree. They decide to stay the night there. Rayli thanks Corva for saving her, and she binds her wing. She learns more about Corva and that she plans to be an engineer like her father. In the morning, they gather materials, dodge over the pirates, and build a raft on the river in a hasty escape. The pirates start chasing them, but then complain about working conditions and go on strike.

As Rayli and Corva raft down the river, they sing about adventure. Then they stop at a small town to get supplies. There they unintentionally foil a family of raccoon con artists, who then chase them back to the river.

While rafting, a storm comes, and their raft is destroyed on the rapids, and night falls. A frog named Craw finds them drifting and rescues them, taking them home to Croaken Cove, a Cajun colony of stilted swamp houses. As they rest for the night, the frogs croak a song about priorities in life.

The next morning, Craw leads them to a steamboat landing. The alligators see them and start to pursue, but stop for a mandatory bathroom break. Craw introduces Rayli and Corva to the steamboat pilot, a turtle named Langhorne. As they embark, Langhorne patters a song about how to navigate the river/life. Later they see the raccoons onboard, who chase them off at the next landing. The raccoons decide to follow them to steal eggs from the raven’s colony.

Rayli and Corva walk to Raven Steam and ride the steam elevator up to Iron Cliff, the steampunk colony where Corva lives. Once settled in, Rayli helps Corva finish building a chariot, as they sing about collaboration. Corva’s father is impressed with Rayli’s design skills.

Early in the morning, the raccoons scale the cliff, sneak into the colony and steal raven eggs from the nursery. The ravens scramble to pursue. Rayli, Corva, and her father pursue in a dirigible. In the battle, Corva falls out, still unable to fly, and the raccoons take her hostage. Rayli flies on a raven to pursue, finds Corva, and rescues her and the eggs. The raccoons chase them, then they all run into the alligators. Rayli and Corva escape to the dirigible with the eggs.

As they fly in the dirigible to take Rayli home, Corva’s father tells her she’s a natural builder. Later, Rayli writes her college application essay about how she found her spark, and Corva writes her essay about learning priorities over grades. They move into a college dorm as roommates, and we see all their architectural projects over the next few years.


Inspiration
Rayli is inspired by a student I had as a teacher. She was bright and got an A, but she failed many classes, much to the frustration of her parents and teachers. Her close friend in that same class was a troublesome student and failed (again). I could see her loyalty to her friend was holding her back.

Corva is inspired by another student. She was very bright, but obsessed with trying to get 100%. So I stopped giving her grades and told her to do it for the pride and satisfaction instead of the grade.

The concept is inspired by Mark Twain, mostly the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — adventures, colorful characters, rich vernacular, nostalgia, picturesque scenes, abandoned island & house, con-artists, pirates, and two characters bonding as they raft down the river — but it is not the same story (no slavery, race, abuse, or murder).


Another Screenplay
See also my other (complete) screenplay here.
SCREENPLAY
© 2022 David Hundsness     pet[email protected]