The One And Only Ivan (2020): Review

Right on the heels of Magic Camp released just one week prior, Disney+ are keeping their positive momentum with the latest star-studded addition, The One And Only Ivan. Streaming from Aug 21st.

This is more like it. After Disney’s more recent live-action animal centric affairs, such as Dumbo and Lady and the Tramp, failing to wow audiences and critics alike, The One And Only Ivan brings things back in check with a cute and furry line-up, top notch voice acting and a real emotional tether. The superb cast is rounded out with Ivan (Sam Rockwell), Stella the elephant (Angelina Jolie), Bob the stray dog (Danny DeVito), Snickers the poodle (Helen Mirren), Henrietta the chicken (Chaka Khan), Murphy the rabbit (Ron Funches), Thelma the parrot (Phillipa Soo), Frankie the seal (Frank White) and lastly Ruby the baby elephant (Brooklynn Prince).

Based on the incredible true story of the silverback gorilla, this adaptation introduces us to Ivan, the headline act for Mack’s (Bryan Cranston) circus who perform in-house at The Big Top Mall and Video Arcade based in Tacoma, Washington. They’ve been doing this for quite some time, years in fact, and while business has been steady, things have taken a dip of late. Not just for the circus but for the mall as a whole. Mack sees this as nothing more than a blip and despite other store owners jumping ship, he decides to stay and ride it out. After all, moving circus isn’t easy nor cheap.

Keeping the animals company are janitor George and his daughter Julia. She visits Ivan every day after school where they share in their passion for art. The pair harness a rare and special bond that transcends animal vs man; they understand each other fundamentally. Julia is the only person that can decode Ivan’s crayon doodles, to everyone else they’re just arbitrary scribblings but to her they reflect something more.

Ivan possesses this paradoxical self awareness whereby he has to force himself to be ‘aggressive’ in order to please the crowds, they all want a fierce ape like King Kong but for Ivan it doesn’t come easy, rather he sees it as acting. It’s a humorous and clever take on what is considered one of the most primitive species on our planet. All the animals have a part to play of course but some shine more than others as can be expected, namely Bob played by Danny DeVito who’s disgruntled wit makes for some great banter between the cage dwellers and ringmaster Mack.

In an attempt to draw in bigger crowds and regain past success, Mack acquires an exceptionally cute baby elephant by the name of Ruby. She’s immediately taken under the wing of resident elephant Stella and as their relationship develops a favour is asked of Ivan that looks to derail Mack’s best laid plans.


The One And Only Ivan is a sure-fire family hit. In fairness I’d recommend it regardless of whether you have children or not. It’s simple enough, yet charming and enjoyable throughout. The film was originally slated for a theatrical release and it’s easy to see the intended scope reflected in the quality of the CGI work and in the voice talents on display, all in all making it a worthy addition for Disney+’s ever expanding library.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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