(2006) dir. David Bowers, Sam Fell
viewed: 11/04/06 at Metreon, SF, CA
The English Aardman studio’s first digitally animated film is still significantly better than probably 95% of their brethren. My understanding is that they wanted to continue to mimic the look and feel of their clay animations, but to stretch beyond some of the limitations of that form.
The character design is classic Aardman, or Nick Park who has led the Aardman studios with all of their Wallace and Gromit works. They are totally above average in their design and execution, but even more so in their hilarious use of the form for clever and creative characterizations and jokes. This film was definitely better than I had anticipated. I guess that I thought this was going to be clearly second-rate work from the studio. It’s far from it.
The story and characterization are really quite fun, with a full, hilarious world of slugs, toads, frogs, and rats. One thing I really liked was their usage of big name talent without screaming out that this character is “so-and-so” (famous actor dialing in some cheap role in voiceover). Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, and particularly Ian McKellen are well embedded in their characters. You think more about the characters and not the voices behind them. This may sound like really obvious stuff but it really is a major issue in animation. The Toad is one of my favorite villains in years.
The slugs are the real highlight, as the chorus, and comedy throughout. Their background singing, screaming, and “running” are the funniest parts of a pretty solid film.