Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Hoytyboy Pictures, Sir Zip Studios and Contrafilm, it was animated by C.O.R.E. Feature Animation. It was released to theaters on April 14, 2006 in North America, by Buena Vista Pictures.
The film received negative reviews by critics and it earned $102 million on a $80 million budget. The film also received a Artios Award nomination for Best Animated Voice-Over Feature Casting. A video game for Game Boy Advance based on The Wild was released to coincide with the film.
In Central Park Zoo, Samson the Lion tells his 11-year-old son Ryan stories of his adventures in the wild. That night, when the zoo closes, all the animals are free to roam. Samson, along with his friends Benny a Eastern gray squirrel, Bridget a masai giraffe, Larry an anaconda snake, and Nigel a British koala compete in a turtle curling championship while Ryan is with his friends. Ryan accidentally causes a stampede which head to the game. Samson and Ryan have a falling out, and Ryan storms off before Samson can apologize. Ryan wanders into a green box and gets shipped away by a truck, which the legend tells will take him to the wild while Samson claims that they are dangerous. With the help of a pigeon, Hamir, Samson and Benny go after him, sneaking into a garbage disposal truck with Nigel, Larry, and Bridget coming as well, accidentally throwing Benny off the truck.
After passing through Times Square and nearly being crushed in the garbage disposal, the group encounters a pack of rabid stray dogs. Samson leads them through the sewer rather than scaring them off. There, they take directions to the docks from two street wise alligator brothers, Stan and Carmine. The next morning, the four friends steal a tugboat during a hectic escape from New York harbor. With help from Larry, they drive the boat and reunite with Benny, who has enlisted a flock of Canada geese to help lead the crew in the right direction of Ryan's ship. Days later, Nigel goes mad and, under the impression they have hit an iceberg, jumps overboard.
The boat runs aground in Africa, where the group quickly discover that all the animals in the area are being evacuated by the carriers, as a nearby volcano erupts. They witness Ryan escaping, but he runs into the jungle. Samson attempts to find him, but it is quickly revealed that he has in fact never been in the wild before after trying to eat a rude Hyrax. The rest of the group head back to the ship, but Samson decides to keep trying to find his son. While walking, Samson starts seeing plants and rocks change colors.
Nigel is captured by a herd of wildebeests who dwell in the volcano, and their leader Kazar, pronounces him 'The Great Him', based on an 'omen' he received when he was young: about to be devoured by lions, a toy koala fell from the sky (actually from a plane) and scared the lions away, saving his life. Kazar wants to change the food chain; he would rather see "prey become predators" and vice versa. For this, he needs to eat a lion. Bridget and Larry are also captured and held prisoner.
Ryan hides up an old tree, but is attacked by a gang of vultures led by Scraw and Scab acting under orders from Kazar. The branch breaks and traps his paw. Samson hears Ryan's cries and runs to save him, scaring off the birds. The two reunite, but are interrupted by Kazar's wildebeest minions led by Blag. Ryan is shocked when Samson tells him to run. The two retreat to a tree where Samson reveals the truth. He was born in the circus and like Ryan, was unable to roar. One night, he was forced to appear in a show with the intent of him roaring at a mechanical bull but failed due to his inability to roar, much to the disappointment of the audience. Later, his rude, strict, derivative, hateful, and possibly abusive father disowns him as a son and allowed him to be sent to the zoo, claiming that he would know how to roar if he were born in the wild, where he became an orphan and lied to avoid the shame. The wildebeests discover them and, in the scuffle, send the tree over the cliff, with Samson still hanging on. Ryan is captured and taken to the volcano.
Benny finds Samson and encourages him to be himself, even if he's not from the wild. They find two chameleons, who were leading Samson to the volcano and are also trying to defeat Kazar's army of his kind. Samson uses the chameleons' camouflage abilities to slip into Kazar's lair. Nigel tries his best to stall the wildebeests from cooking his friends, and eventually Samson fights Kazar but is overwhelmed. Ryan, seeing Samson in danger, climbs onto a catapulting device and launches himself at Kazar, finally letting out a roar.
With Kazar distracted, Samson manages to defeat him. Ryan tells Samson that he is happy to have him for a dad. The other wildebeests are touched by this and refuse to serve Kazar any further. Samson gains the courage he has needed after seeing the illusion of the mechanical wildebeest over a charging Kazar and roars powerfully enough to push him back. The animals, along with the wildebeests, flee except Kazar, who is trapped and crushed to death in the erupting volcano. The animals and wildebeests manage to escape on the boat and travel back to the New York Zoo.Kiefer Sutherland as Samson, a male lion, captain of the New York Central Park zoo
Jim Belushi as Benny, a heroic Eastern gray squirrel and the only one who knows Samson's not from the wild
Eddie Izzard as Nigel, an eccentric British koala, co-captain of the zoo
Janeane Garofalo as Bridget, an insecure masai giraffe and Benny's love interest
William Shatner as Kazar, A male blue wildebeest who is the leader of the wildebeests
Richard Kind as Larry, a green dim-witted anaconda snake
Greg Cipes as Ryan, a male lion cub and Samson's son
Colin Hay as Fergus Flamingo
Miles Marsico as Duke
Jack DeSena as Eze
Don Cherry as Penguin MC
Christian Argueta and David Cowgill as Hamir, a pigeon.
Lenny Venito as Stan, a male Sewer alligator
Joseph Siravo as Carmine, a male Sewer alligator
Patrick Warburton as Blaggar "Blag", Kazar's lead henchman
Colin Cunningham as Hyrax
Jonathan Kimmel as Scab
Eddie Gossling as Scraw
Clinton Leupp as Mama Hippo
Kevin Michael Richardson as Samson's father
Dominic Scott Kay as Young Samson
Chris Edgerly as Cloak
Bob Joles as Camo / Ringleader
The Wild opened in 2,854 theaters. The film earned $9.5 million in its first weekend at the box office, ranking #4. Its promotion was small, with only the following promoters: Kraft, McDonald's, Amazon (selling the products and mini promotions on its site), Buena Vista Games, Buena Vista Records, and Buena Vista Book Publishing Worldwide.
As of November 5, 2006, the movie grossed a total of $37,384,046 in the United States box office and $139,722,455 worldwide including DVD sales. Its production budget, in contrast, was $80 million. The Wild was ranked #1 of the top DVD sales twice in Entertainment Weekly; the first time for October 6–12, 2006, the second time for October 13–19, 2006.
The Wild received negative reviews for its rehashed plot, overuse of product placement, and uncanny animation.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 20% based on 112 reviews with an average rating of 4.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a rehashed plot and unimpressive animation, there's nothing wild about The Wild." On Metacritic, the film has score of 47 out of 100 based on 24 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Critics considered The Wild to be heavily derivative of the 2005 DreamWorks film, Madagascar. USA Today suggested that it was "the most wildly derivative animated movie in ages", while Variety described it as "ultimately done in by the persistent stench of been-there-seen-that".
Similarities include its setting in New York's Central Park Zoo, similar animals as characters, and the primary plot of introducing zoo animals to the wild. The name of the film and the tag line, "Start spreading the newspaper", a play on the opening line from the "Theme from New York, New York", were both used as integral plot points in Madagascar.
Despite this, a few critics defended The Wild as the superior film. Critic Mike Sage wrote "don't be mistaking this for a Madagascar rip-off, when it was that sloppy DreamWorks turd that only managed to make it to theaters first because of corporate espionage". Without addressing which film was the original concept, Tim Cogshell of Boxoffice Magazine simply wrote "for the adult who may very well have to experience this film, and who may have experienced Madagascar, The Wild is better. The animation is better, the jokes intended for your children are better, the jokes intended for you and not your children are much better, the songs are better, and it's more fun."
The musical score is composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri who did Lilo & Stitch."Real Wild Child" is performed by Everlife; a music video of the song is included on the 2006 DVD release. It was also included in the trailer of Wild Child
"Good Enough" is performed by Lifehouse
"Clocks" is performed by Coldplay
"Really Nice Day" is performed by Eric Idle and John Du Prez
"Big Time Boppin' (Go Man Go)" is performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
"Lovin' You" is performed by Minnie Riperton.
The scores "Tales from the Wild", "You Can't Roar", and "Lost in the City" are only a few of the score tracks on the soundtrack. The soundtrack is available from Buena Vista Records. "Come Sail Away" by Styx is featured in the trailers, but not in the finished film.
A video game for Game Boy Advance based on The Wild was released to coincide with the film. Players get to play as Benny the Squirrel and Samson the lion as they go through New York, the sea, and Africa to find Ryan, while battling the wicked blue wildebeest Kazar. The video game is rated "E" (for "Everyone") by the ESRB, with a note for Mild Cartoon Violence.