20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 44 mins .
G . PAL
Despite a mine of inspiration for animated Christmas tales, very little has shown up in the past ten years or so that’s been particularly moving, let alone overly entertaining for children and adults alike. In fact, other than Berke Breathed’s delightful A Wish for Wings That Work nothing instantly pops to mind. Now Opus and Bill the Cat have company – although this time the story revolves around a penguin and a dog. Ack!
Hey, I can't find nothing on the radio...
Olive is a chipper little dog who just doesn’t get the whole ‘being doggy’ thing. Rather than digging holes, fetching and chewing slippers, she’d rather just get on with being best friend to her owner, Tim. It’s Christmastime, and for some reason her master is a tad grumpy. Suspecting it’s because of her, and with no little help from her own cloth-eared pet in Fido the Flea, she believes Tim doesn’t love her anymore, and upon hearing that Santa may have to cancel Christmas due to Blitzen being injured, things just don’t look good at all. But when she hears that Santa may be able to “make do with all of the other reindeer” and carry out his annual pilgrimage, our woofy heroine is convinced it’s ‘Olive, the other reindeer”; believing it just may be her calling to save Christmas she jumps a Mauvehound bus bound for the North Pole, complete with a recently met friend, the street-hawking shyster penguin Martini, in tow.
We always knew Kevin Costner was evil...
They meet many folk along the way, including another fun pun in Round John Virgin and pass by the odd tribute to other much-loved animated creations – including Frostbite Falls, home of Rocky and Bullwinkle and friends – until they eventually reach Santa’s workshop. Ah, but it isn’t that straightforward, for their progress is hindered somewhat by a decidedly non-Christmassy postman (“Bah, bug and hum!”) hell bent on seeing the season of shoulder-busting mail runs erased from the calendar forever…
Set 'em up, bartender!
Adapted from a children’s storybook by Simpsons/Letterman writer Steve Young, Olive is a tale that’s as cute as a button and sweet as a candy cane, yet still manages not to trigger the ever-ready gag reflex of a jaded 30-something in favour of just providing 40 minutes of captivating, seasonal entertainment. There are many reasons why it works just so well; Matt Groening (The Simpsons, do we need to even point that out?) and many of his gang are heavily involved, so the usual complement of sight gags and acknowledgement of older audiences are present, while the visual world created is both fascinating and refreshingly original. It’s all 3D rendered – in fact VERY 3D at times - however all its inhabitants are flat and 2D, making the whole thing look somewhat like South Park after electric shock treatment. Add to this a stellar cast; Drew Barrymore as Olive, Joe Pantoliano as Martini, Dan Castellaneta as the Postman, Peter MacNicol as Fido, Ed Asner as Santa and even R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe as a reindeer named Schnitzel (and yes, he gets to sing), and it’s an all round impressive package that’s perfect to pull out to entertain the whole family come the time fat boy does the chimney invasion thing each year.
Made for television, Olive comes to us in a full frame ratio, and there’s very little to say other than it looks magnificent. Made on computer and seemingly transferred directly, none of those yukky film artefact things creep into the mix, with the only possible annoyance for the more easily bothered being some extremely mild aliasing at times due to the overall sharpness of the presentation. Meanwhile, the colouring of the remarkable 3D world, based on the art of J. Otto Seibold, is suitably festive; all bright and jolly throughout.
Just a standard Dolby Digital stereo mix here folks, nothing to get excited about. Sure, it does its job well, there certainly aren’t any problems whatsoever with the perky audio track, it just isn’t as enveloping as it could be. Still, the music comes up well, a selection of compositions from Futurama composer Christopher Tyng, along with a handful of fairly unmemorable songs which manage to not outstay their welcome, unlike so many of those Christmassy ditties that tend to show up in these types of things.
Yes, I'd like to speak to Hugh Jass please...
A sweet animated main menu gives way to but two bonus features. The first is the best, a 26:01 ‘making of’ documentary which, despite smelling suspiciously of the letters ‘E’, ‘P’ and ‘K’, proves quite entertaining. The usual interviews with cast and crew (including Matt Groening) are all present and accounted for, along with quick but interesting peeks at the animation, scoring and voice recording processes.
The second one is simply links to Olive’s five songs from the feature, available separately or as one ‘play all’ lump and totalling 6:46 in length.
While only quite short, Olive more than meets its brief as late-December entertainment and it’s hard to find anything noteworthy to fault with the DVD presentation. If the thought of facing Frosty, Charlie Brown or Rudolph the drunken reindeer (red nose, hello?) yet again has you going postal, give plucky little Olive a spin – her triumphant is certain to result in your joyful…
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "