Sunday, 30 March 2014

World Animation Roundup 1

Normally I only do blog entries on titles which are particularly good or worthy of note in some other way, but this little round up of animated films could perhaps be considered to be at the opposite end of this ideal.  As I went out of my way to track them down however it’d be a shame not to mention them at all.  Also, it’s fun to let rip on a film every now and then.

I’ve optimistically numbered this entry, so we shall see if there are future roundups as time goes on. :-)

Free Jimmy (2006)

Jimmy is a performing elephant in a travelling circus whose highs and lows are controlled with a steady mix of hard drugs.  His handlers are a bunch of stoners who need money to avoid getting their legs broken by the local loan shark while self-absorbed animal activists try to counter our ‘heroes’.  Oh and spoiler: Jimmy is also being used as a mule to transport heroin.

Made in Norway in 2006 (although there was apparently some British input in here as well), Free Jimmy has its moments, but we’re not really given enough reason to care about most of the cast.  They’re an unpleasant lot, and frankly not enough of them get what they deserve.  If you have the mindset that being on drugs is by default hilarious you’ll probably do fine, but seeing an elephant go suffering withdrawal symptoms didn’t strike me as a laugh out loud moment.  It’s a curio certainly, but there’s sadly not much else to report on this one.  Disappointing.

Availability: English dubbed edition is widely available on DVD.

The Wild (2006)

The story:  Animals live happily in zoo. Poppa lion has argument with son.  Son gets dragged off to parts unknown before they can reconcile.  Poppa and posse of animal friends go off on a journey to rescue son and be heart-warming or something.  Hilarity ensues.

Let it be known that I am a big fan and follower of Disney animated features.  There are many genuine classics in the Disney vault and even their less entertaining output has creatively interesting points of interest.  The Wild’s point of interest however is just how crap it is.  I can’t kid on this point.  I mean, it’s awful.  The character designs are unremarkable and are presented in subpar CGI (as a comparison Monsters Inc. came out 5 years earlier and still looks fine).  The plot is a non-event excuse to bludgeon its audience with ‘LOOK KIDZ THIS IS A JOKE!’ kind of humour.  Ultimately the whole film is a boring, broken, painful mess and if I hadn’t checked the back of the box would’ve sworn it was about 5 hours long.  Disney needs to bury this one as much as humanly possible.

I’d upload some images from it, but my DVD has gone missing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a family member had smuggled it out into a dustbin at some point when I wasn’t looking.

Availability: Easy to find, but don’t.

Delhi Safari (2012)

I watched this the day after The Wild, and comparisons were hard to not make.  It’s another tale that starts by describing the feline relationship of a father and son.  Unfortunately daddy gets shot by land developers and the son escapes with his mother to embark on with a dire mission to plead with the humans to not destroy their home.  Doesn’t this already sound more interesting than The Wild?

Delhi Safari is an Indian animation from 2012, an unfair advantage perhaps to compare a film made in 2006 perhaps, but this is not the point.  This film too suffers from unremarkable CGI and uneven character designs, but the film’s premise and subsequent character interaction make this film feel way more justified in its existence.  The inevitable moralising about conservation and typical cheesy humour are a small price to pay for an otherwise painless hour and a half.  It’s no masterpiece but different enough to be worth a watch, with occasional Bollywood music thrown in as a bonus.

Availability:  There is an English dubbed version out in America which has the unenviable task of translating the Hindi songs.  The inexpensive Indian DVD has good subtitles and is the better option.

Treasure Planet (1982)

You know the one.  No, not the Disney version, but the totally famous Bulgarian one from the 1980s of course!

It’s… different.  And by ‘different’ I mean an abomination.

Apparently based on Treasure Island, this sci-fi themed cartoon uses some of the same names and has some pirates, but otherwise this is an insane dead-end of a feature.  I’ll give it a chance before I tear into it, so first the good points: The treasure the pirates are fighting over turns out to be the concept of Earth as an entirety.  Its history, people, nature, culture, environment, the whole shebang.  It’s a cool idea and in keeping with the futuristic setting, and when you see the treasure finally opened it’s certainly something to remember (though not necessarily for the right reasons).  And here my praise ends.

Let it be known that this is the bizarrest, awfulest and most fundamentally inept head-trip of a film I think I’ve ever seen.  To be sure the character designs are unappealing and the story is bad, but that’s just the start.  It deliberately tries to pad out its meagre 60 minutes running time with scenes of appalling at non-humour and frequent recycling of animation cycles but the animation OH THE ANIMATION.  In the land that anatomy forgot characters either convulse across the screen or stand around like propped up roadkill.  Whoever was involved in the animation were really on the bad drugs, and how they managed to squeeze a Mickey Mouse cameo in here without being sued into oblivion I have no idea.  I could end on a more positive note remarking on how some of background art is quite cool, but the musical interlude where people start singing Verdi prevents me.

The director went on to work on the likes of Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Lab, but for this example of his work only watch under threat of violence.

Availability: The Bulgarian DVD has the local version on a remastered video track, while the English dub floats in sub-VHS murk.  I have no idea why they are separated in the this fashion, or why it was even allowed to resurface on DVD.

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