A movie developed from a TV series (it started running in 2000 and each episode was usually 4-5 minutes long, from what I can gather) that gave birth to a series of whacky adverts, A Town Called Panic is everything you will expect it to be if you’ve seen the madcap antics in any of it’s previous incarnations.
There are no live actors here, no puppets or traditional cartoon animation either. A Town Called Panic is a surreal, wonderful comedy told with the help of some stop-motion animated toy figurines . They’re mostly given literal names so we have an Indian called Indian, a cowboy called Cowboy and a horse called Horse. There is also a policeman, a horse who teaches at the local school that Horse is smitten with, the neighbours (Steven, who shouts almost constantly, and Janine) and a selection of anthropomorphic animals.
The panic begins when Cowboy and Indian forget Horse’s birthday. They decide to order some bricks and build him a barbecue but, unfortunately, end up with millions more bricks than they actually need due to a mistake made while placing the order.
Cowboy and Indian try to hide the bricks from Horse and then they all eventually end up building a house . . . . . but the panic starts to escalate when the house is stolen. So they start building another house. That one’s stolen, too. Things get into full-on panic mode when the trio discover that their things are being stolen by the inhabitants of an underwater world and before you can say “crazy adventure” it’s off on a journey that sees characters imprisoned, a bunch of scientists who like to do nothing better than have fun with their giant, snowball-throwing machine, Horse letting down the lady who was willing to give him piano lessons and other hijinks as the good guys aim to get their house back.
Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar wrote and directed this thing together (as well as providing a few of the voices) and I immediately know that I’d like to meet with these guys for a drink. Everything here is just fun, fun, fun. But don’t let that detract from the fact that every scene also has a lot of loving detail in there. Perhaps it’s the complete lo-tech vibe of the thing, perhaps it’s the way it taps into all of those crazy adventures we made our toys go on when we were young, I don’t know, but there’s something in this film that connects with whatever inner child still lies within and that does so without sentimentality or any sense of being patronised. The movie has the positive feeling of being irreverently childish while not feeling specifically aimed at children (though it’s certainly a family-friendly movie).
I didn’t recognise the voices so I’m sorry if I should have but they all did a great job, despite the fact that this movie is much more about the visuals and the weird and wonderful moments you’ve never seen in any other movie than the dialogue. Do check it out because it certainly deserves to be enjoyed by fans of great comedy. If you can imagine the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan breaking into Pixar and making some little movie to undermine all of the gloss and bankability then you can almost imagine how this movie works.
DIRECTOR: STEPHANE AUBIER, VINCENT PATAR
STARS: STEPHANE AUBIER, BRUCE ELLISON, JEANNE BALIBAR, NICOLAS BUYSSE
RUNTIME: 72 MINS APPROX