Hailing from Belgium, this delightfully manic animation has to be one of the most unpredictable films I’ve ever seen. The film uses old-fashioned “cowboy and indian” miniatures to animate an incredibly bizarre stop-motion tale that thankfully never becomes nonsensical.
Panic is a small town. Cowboy (Stéphane Aubier) and Indian (Bruce Ellison) share a house with Horse (Vincent Patar). Next door live Steven the farmer and his wife, Janine. Down the bottom of the road is the Policeman, who apparently lives in his tiny police booth. The dunderheaded Cowboy and Indian have realised that they’ve forgotten Horse’s birthday, so rush out to get him a present. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go too well, and it ends up with their house being destroyed. No sooner have Horse, Cowboy and Indian set out to rebuild their home, than they set off on an adventure that will take them to the farthest reaches of the Earth.
It’s really hard to encapsulate the plot of A Town Called Panic in a sentence or two, and the paragraph above doesn’t even hint at the madcap events that take place. Where else can you a find a giant mechanical penguin, a woolly mammoth, an underwater kingdom and a horse learning to play piano? The plot is absurd and feels, to a certain extent, as if it was made up as it went along (or created by a child, as with “Axe Cop“). I don’t mean that in a denigrating sense, rather I’m merely trying to describe just how insane this film is.
The animation is both simplistic and complicated. The character animation is nearly non-existent – the expressions on their faces never change, and when they “walk” it almost seems as if an invisible hand is moving the pieces. Then again, there are some large-scale massive events which make use of the entire landscape, and these are uniformly brilliant. The model settings themselves are lovingly created, also.
The film does remind me of the TV show “I Am Not an Animal”, but this may be merely because both feature a talking horse that acts like a human – in this case, showering, driving a car and waltzing on two legs. The incongruity is certainly present in both. The film never gets gross, which sets it apart from the likes of “South Park”, the show which arguably started the trend for low budget animation, nor does it have the charm of any of the Wallace and Gromit films, though I suppose you could say it’s a blend of these three productions.
A Town Called Panic only really falters in the sense that the silliness never ends, and thus it never really feels like that narrative has much of a point. As a constantly amusing and sometimes hilarious offbeat animation, it does just fine, however.
A Town Called Panic is available on DVD from Madman.Rating: