This brisk sixty minute animated adaptation is hand drawn in the style of the famous TinTin cartoon series, and delights in its similar sense of old fashioned derring do.
Faithful to Verne in its story, character, US Civil War-era setting and spirit of adventure, it sees am intrepid band of balloon-wrecked castaways and their dog attempt to colonise their new island home.
Fighting pirates and escaping the erupting volcano are given prominence, and the characterisation is appropriately two dimensional.
Nemo appears early, a watchful, mysterious and potentially malevolent figure, but is eventually revealed as an old dying man, and though his appearance alludes to his background as Verne describes it, his identity of Dakkar, Indian prince is not mentioned, nor is his vendetta against the British. Neb is introduced as a manservant, but is otherwise treated as simply another member of Captain Harding’s team.
The Nautilus is an enormous, palace-like vessel, bearing little relation to Verne’s description and unlike Verne’s version is capable of firing torpedoes.
Unremarkable yet straightforward, faithful and enjoyable, and played at a pace it’s target audience of young kids may have been content with at the time, but to a modern generation it will seem painfully slow.
A delirious fusion of live-action and animation very loosely based on Jules Verne’s 1875 novel, The Mysterious Island, this glorious fantasy is a heady kaleidoscope of boys’ own adventure, wild invention, political satire and knockabout action, with occasional moments of whimsy and a huge amount of humour.
Verne’s novel is set during the US Civil War and sees a group of Union prisoners escape by hot air balloon to the titular Pacific Ocean island. However Czech film director, Karel Zeman, often called the ‘Czech Melies‘, uses Verne as a jumping off point for madcap escapades as a group of schoolboys makes a bid for freedom from an oppressive and corrupt regime.
Brave, bright eyed, loyal and combative, they steal an airship and fly to a remote island, and in their absence are tried in their absence and sentenced to hang.
Zeman’s energy and imagination are boundless and we’re treated to a multitude of Heath Robinson-style devices and flying contraptions, as well as Mission Impossible-style face masks, sharks, shotgun-toting boot-makers, dancing ducks, and pirates.
Among the fights, physical humour and acrobatic antics, a woman castaway becomes allies with boys and together they run rings around the men trying to subdue them.
In the middle of the madness, and lifted from The Mysterious Island, there’s a brief meeting with Verne’s most memorable creation, Captain Nemo, who’s portrayed as a tech-loving Methuselah, while his submarine, the Nautilus, is handily labelled ‘Nautilus’.
Ideas tumble over each other at dizzying speed in a bewildering mix of illustrative styles, musical interludes, and stock footage.
Much of Zeman’s style may seem familiar to you and that’s likely due to his influencing not only his countryman, the famed animator Jan Svankmajer, but also to the filmmakers Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Ray Harryhausen, and Wes Anderson.
More specifically, The Stolen Airship, with it’s love of steampunk tech, a fairground rumpus, zeppelin, an incompetent bowler-hatted spy, and with a corrupt official and his glamorous wife bearing more than passing resemblance to Baron Bomburst and his wife, it seems to have been a considerable influence on the Cubby Broccoli’s 1968 family musical fantasy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
I suspect the screenwriter of that film, Road Dahl, would have enjoyed this occasionally macabre and surreal tale with its shades of Kafka. And Zeman’s merry mocking of social conventions and keen eye for the absurdities of life also takes aim at pomposity, greed and stupidity.
His film is undeniably underpinned by the thrill of freedom, and is unmistakably political in its ruthlessly condemnatory of the military, which along with the corrupt bureaucracy and a surveillance society, are ridiculed throughout.
And there’s also a great deal of courage in Zeman’s needling of authority as this was made in the period immediately before The Prague Spring, the period of political liberalisation and mass protest in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic which ended abruptly at gunpoint on 21 August 1968, when the USSR invaded the country to suppress the reforms.
Absurdly charming, and occasionally just a little bit saucy, I watched it in its native Czech language without subtitles and so lost some of the nuance and detail.
What I received in perfect clarity was Zeman’s breathless collision of invention, cynicism and optimism. An absolute delight throughout, The Stolen Airship beat The Beatles’ psychedelic animation Yellow Submarine, to the punch by a year, and I loved every extraordinary minute of it. Please watch.
The latest of the Warner Bros. animated superhero adventures brings one of Batman’s most notorious stories to dynamic life as the replacement Robin the Boy Wonder, an orphan called Jason Todd, is kidnapped by arch villain The Joker.
The comic book series on which it’s based used a telephone readers’ vote to decide whether Todd lived or died, and in it’s honour this has various alternate versions of the story to entertain.
Also includes four short stories featuring Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange and more. Fun but not for the little ones.
Be enchanted by this fabulous family fable which is a joyously magical affair, rich in character, astonishingly imaginative, vividly beautiful, wonderfully funny, terrifically exciting, and easily the best animated movie I’ve seen this year.
Set in Kilkenny in 1650, Robyn is a young girl newly arrived from England with her father, and her pet owl called Merlin. While secretly exploring the nearby forest Robyn encounters another motherless and mischievous young girl called Mebh, who is a Wolfwalker, someone who possess the ability to change between human and wolf form.
Giving voice to the pair, Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker have a wonderful rapport full of teasing humour and excitable, conspiratorial exchanges. While Sean Bean brings a weary sadness nobility as Robyn’s father.
But the girls’ blossoming friendship puts Robyn at odds with her father who’s a wolf hunter by trade, and brings them all into conflict with the puritanical and tyrannical Lord Protector, an Englishman intent on ‘taming’ Ireland by force.
Produced by the Irish studio, Cartoon Saloon who’re justly famous for their with their uniquely luscious illustrative style rooted in traditional Irish art, their previous films The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner, were all Oscar nominated for Best Animated Film, and each is on a par with the best of Disney or Pixar. And this is no exception.
Although first and foremost a wonderful children’s action adventure, it’s also undeniably political and ripe with history, but always framed in such a way your kids will understand.
It’s most damning of politicians and rulers who invoke god to support their wars and use fear mongering rhetoric to justify persecuting those who are different. And there’s also a timely environmental message about how forests are destroyed in the pursuit of profit.
As the heartbreaking story unfolded, I cried, howled with laughter and I nearly cheered at one crossbow-wielding moment. Wolfwalkers is Watership Down for a new generation – but with more bite.
Science travels hand in hand with spirituality in this inventive musical animation based on a Chinese myth which shines bright with charm and fun for the whole family.
Fei Fei is a romantic-minded early teen who believes in true love and is threatened by the prospect of a new step-mother, so so along with fluffy sidekick rabbit provides comedy and cute companionship Fei Fei builds a space rocket and blasts off to the find the fabled moon goddess.
Along the way thescript draws on familiar works such as Alice In Wonderland, Wallace And Gromit, and the 1902 silent classic movie, A Trip to the Moon.
A delightful, silly colourful and exciting adventure full of space dogs, luminous lions, giant floating frogs and ping pong games in zero gravity, all of which are used to gently smuggle in a message of compassion to help young kids understand and cope with feelings of grief and loss.
An in its best moments the story muscles in on Pixar territory as a vehicle for tender heartbreak, goofy laughs and eye-popping visuals, and it left me, well, over the moon.
Inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales such as The Elves and the Shoemaker, this busy, bright and good natured animated adventure has enough music, songs, charm, humour and attractive design to entertain your little ones.
200 years after a falling out between elves and humans, the elves of Cologne believe humans are dastardly, unappreciative, much too large and generally sneaky lazy bums. In other words a kids eye view of adults. Or so my son would have me believe.
Helvi is a spirited if clumsy elf who struggles to create handicraft to the standard expected of her, so inspired by a scrap of cloth with a picture of humans and elves working together, she travels to our world along with two friends where they fall in with a baker who is being forced out of his business and in desperate need of an extra pair of hands or three.
It’s a jolly lightweight confection served up by the people who whisked up the recent hit Dreambuilders, and if your little ones enjoyed its mix of modern slang, slapstick and fart jokes, then they’ll certainly enjoy this slice of fun.
I’m much more of a Batman than Superman fan, but I enjoyed this typically fast paced and action filled thirty-ninth film in in the Warner Bros. animated series.
Young Clark Kent is an intern at the Daily Planet newspaper working alongside ace reporter Lois Lane and yet to adopt his famous costume or even the name Superman.
When a snarling alien bounty hunter called Lobo arrives with violent intentions, the Man of Steel has to team up with future arch-enemy Lex Luthor and leap into action faster than a speeding bullet to save the world. Not for the little ones.
The punning title of this animated fairytale is a very effective guide to the bright, busy, brief and fairly basic paw-powered fun on offer.
When a fearsome wolf pack discover a land where wolves and sheep live in harmony, they’re so disgusted they lay siege to the village and plot to use magic to turn the peaceful inhabitants into pigs.
The filmmakers haven’t broken the piggy bank on the wooly minded script, which despite the ramshackle plotting will make ewe laugh every now and again, and the relentless piggery-jokery may amuse any easily distracted kids.
Magic, mechanical mayhem, warring kingdoms and a battle between wizardry and science all feature in this upbeat and swashbuckling animated fairytale, an exciting and fun fable based on traditional European fairy tales and updated with the gloss of steampunk design and some superhero-style fisticuffs.
Gerda is the kind hearted, impetuous and brave young daughter of wizards who lives in a warm and sunny medieval kingdom, but she’s frustrated by a lack of power of her own.
Her land is ruled by a cruel king who favours science over magic and by exploiting their greed and gullibility of his subjects, begins to banish all magicians – including Gerda’s parents – to the Mirrorlands, the dreaded realm of the feared Snow Queen.
And so Gerda with her brother Kay, and friend Alfida, Gerda goes in pursuit of a magic key to free her loved ones and along the way discovers her own hidden powers.
The Snow Queen herself is a nicely acerbic monarch who although limited by a magic spell to her icy realm, is able to appear to Gerda as a ghostly spirit.
Yes it all feels a lot like a riff on Disney’s Frozen but on a creative level more akin to the animated capers of The Nut Job, or Tad The Explorer films.
There’s some jarringly out of place references to Alcatraz and suchlike and occasional use of modern slang but your little kids won’t care, they’ll be carried along by the epic sweep of the adventure on a journey of honey hued vistas. featuring lava lakes, giant rock monsters, and sky pirates.
However there’s a surprisingly intricate styling to the charming cityscapes, which feature robot-like street sweepers and trolley trams, and it’s full of slapstick silliness with mischievous and cute critters.
So it will entertain its target audience of your little ones, and without any songs to pad out the running time, it makes it’s a brisk enjoyable affair for the grown-ups.
Magic and music take flight in this fantasy animated adventure based on the Bayala kids toy range and offers gentle entertainment aimed squarely at your little ones.
In a world divided into tribes of sun elves and shadow elves, the brave Princess Surah is a product of both regimes and must learn to control her growing magic powers while on a quest to recover a stolen dragon egg and prevent war.
Various story elements are reminiscent of fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty, but with all the darkness stripped out and replaced with pretty rainbow coloured design. Even the peril comes wrapped in giant swirls of purple neon ribbons.
An environmentally friendly message of kindness, co-operation, tolerance and acceptance can’t be sniffed at, there are fun comic sidekicks in the shape of pet wolves and parrots and skunks, all the principal characters are female, most of the men are foolish and the young girls are the heroes.
It’s not up to Disney’s standard, but if your kids are familiar with the characters they’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.
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