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One of the most memorable moments in 1995’s Toy Story was cowboy doll Woody’s deployment of a troop of green plastic army men for a reconnaissance mission. The hard, tiny figures - a staple in any little boy’s toy box - were never the most mobile of items being made of a single mold per soldier, but there was always enough imagination in their owners to create exciting, triumphant battles.  It is in this spirit of fancy that the creatures of the stop-motion masterpiece, A Town Called Panic are brought magically to life.

Brilliant, fresh and imaginative, A Town Called Panic is feature version of a Belgian TV show created in part by animators Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, who write and direct here.  It’s no surprise that the television show was distributed by Aardman Studios, home of the excellent Wallace and Gromit; A Town Called Panic shares the same unexpectedly organic charm in its stop-motion world and characters.  In a peaceful, Crayola-coloured hamlet live Cowboy, Indian and Horse.  The two-legged roommates are in a quandary after they forget their four-legged friend’s birthday and find themselves without a suitable present.  Sweet, but simple minded, Cowboy and Indian take the initiative to make something special for Horse, which finds all three roomies out in the cold.  Only slightly inconvenienced, the trio set about rebuilding their house but find that everything they assemble is absconded with in the middle of the night by a mysterious group of burglars desirous our heroes’ construction skills, but feeling no need to pay for them.  In pursuit of their happy home, Cowboy, Indian and Horse chase the thieves literally to the ends of the earth and discover not only their stolen abode, but a nefarious plot by a team of ornery scientists to bombard innocent citizens around the world with giant snowballs.

Wacky? And how.  Charming and original?  Exceptionally.  From the deceptively primitive use of the hard plastic figures with their extremely limited range of motion (- the plastic base adhered to their feet leaves them toddling from side to side to get anyplace), the appeal of Aubier and Patar’s characters is derived from their madcap, clever script and an excellent voice cast bringing the characters to life.  The acceptance and bonhomie of the tiny rural village extends to all its denizens whether they be horse, policeman, goat, farmer, mailman, or strange undersea creature.  The small town dynamics are perceptively captured and played adorably; the cranky farmer who only shows grudging kindness to his close friends, obsessive jealousy to anyone who so much as looks at his wife, a paternal protectiveness to all his barnyard animals and an unqualified worship of his beloved tractor.  Romance is provided in the entire town’s approving interest in Horse’s shy attempts to woo the local music teacher; the titian-maned Madame Longray and serves as one example of the sweetness so evident throughout A Town Called Panic. I now believe absolutely you can construct a sturdy brick home using crazy glue and I finally understand how horses sleep comfortably standing up and maintain good dental hygiene (- and can play a mean piano, too!).

Off the wall from the outset, A Town Called Panic is a riot of delightful, cockeyed whimsy and a truly wonderful piece of animation.  It is audacious and clever enough to enchant grown-up audiences and fun and fantastic enough to entertain kids (- at least the ones who don’t mind reading subtitles).  Catch this in cinemas while you can.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 29th 2010

 

 

 

 

© 2006-2017 The Diva Review.com

 

 

 

Photos

(Courtesy of  Zeitgeist Films)

 

 

 

 

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