BBC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 58 mins .
G . PAL
The art of ‘Claymation’ is an intriguing one. Painstakingly created, with the setup of 24 individual frames per second of eventual footage required, it’s hard not to wonder why these people bother playing around with their little plasticine puppets. But then most will be able to conjure up visions of the fruits of such labour by spearheads of the art in Aardman like Chicken Run or the Wallace and Gromit series and just be thankful that such phenomenally patient folk exist to create for us such charming, engaging entertainment.
Ah, that must be a girl reindeer on the left... she's wearing lippy.
Which brings us slightly less-than-clunkily to the Robbie the Reindeer mini-films Hooves of Fire and Legend of the Lost Tribe, both of which have been lovingly shoehorned onto the one little disc so that the likes of you and I can saunter into our preferred purveyor of DVDs, hand over a reasonable amount of folding stuff and amble off home to cherish them again and again. Created by the BBC Animation Workshop in aid of the charity Comic Relief (to which, apparently, all proceeds go), they're both set in the town of Coldchester in the North Pole (norther than the coldest northern lands). The first is quite the delightful little Christmassy tale, while the second is about as Yule-tinged as St Patrick’s Day. It doesn’t matter, however, as they’re both eminently enjoyable little comedic animated romps, brimming with renowned comic voice talent who, between them, have had involvement with most every top UK comedy to have emerged in the past decade, not to mention incredible technical wizardry, and enough in the captivation department to have any adult or child in possession of a pulse riveted for their near-as-dammit half hour running times.
The stories for each go just a little bit like this…
Hooves of Fire
Ooh, the keys to the sleigh...
Robbie the Reindeer, son of Rwmmfblbble, arrives in Coldchester thinking following in his famous dad’s hoofsteps and getting into this whole sleigh-leading thing will be a bit of a huge laugh. After all, it’s only one day of work a year, right? Well, not quite, for he didn’t realise it would actually involve training. This is the least of his problems, however, as Blitzen takes an instant dislike to young Robert, based solely on his enmity towards the newcomer’s father. Somewhat bitter and twisted in his grudge, Blitzen vows to make life as hard for Robbie as possible, in fact he aims to destroy him – something which he thinks he’s accomplished when the object of his non-affection decides he’s rubbish and slinks off to explore other pursuits. But with the help of a good woman in Donner and the only wise old codger in the area who can save the day in Old Jingle, plus the convenience of the upcoming Reindeer Games (sponsored by HAY!, the official snack food of the Reindeer Games), Robbie just may end up giving old Blitzen a run for his money…
"Use the nose jump… Bounce with your nose!"
Legend of the Lost Tribe
Crush! Kill! Destroy!
We catch up with the gang as they pursue their North Pole holiday business, necessitous due to a lack of moolah forthcoming from old Mr. Beardy. It’s not going particularly well, however, and the release of Blitzen from prison 50 years early certainly doesn’t help things, as he returns with revenge the only thing on his mind. Teaming up with master of disguise rabbit (or is he?) Long Ear Jack, Blitzen hatches a plan which involves the other reindeer building their own prison, all a part of his evil plot to open a tourist attraction named Reindeer World. Aided by a bludgeon-browed big bunny brute brigade, it seems his nefarious plan may come to fruition, but he doesn’t count on Robbie’s escape and search for a whole messy multitude of Magnus’ in a lost tribe of Vikings…
The fruits of pure antlered evil...
Shot to digital video and presented in the 1.78:1 format (anamorphically enhanced), both incarnations of Robbie look completely, absolutely and totally magical. Artefacts and other nasty visual incursions are non-existent, save for one infinitesimal example of shimmer in the first episode. Meanwhile, colour seems to come across completely as intended, running the gamut brilliantly from white, snow-covered tundras to moodily lit night time interiors and the bright as buttons day lit theme park.
There’s a mixture on offer here, with Hooves of Fire given a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment, while Legend of the Lost Tribe is only serviced by a standard Dolby Digital stereo mix. Not surprisingly the first episode shines, with assaults by all manner of music ranging from dramatic to doofified lending serious thump to proceedings, along with the various sound effect thunks and clunks that lob in here and there throughout.
Prancer bigs it up...
The mix afforded Legend… is nowhere near as captivating, but still does what it should within the confines of a two-channel mix. Both deliver exemplary synch for animated features, coupled with regularly inventive sound design and engaging soundtracks, the first from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, the second from Joby Talbot (whose name may be familiar to fans of the excellent, but seriously f*cked up series The League of Gentlemen). Add the odd pop attack from the likes of The Prodigy, Robbie Williams, Vangelis (if indeed you can call his Chariots of Fire theme ‘pop’ – but it did chart, so what the hey) plus a hilarious occurrence of Seal’s Crazy, and it all adds up to an engrossing musical experience type thingummyjig.
A decent grab bag of bonus goodies has been assembled, allowing those fascinated by the main features to get just a little more Robbie into their lives.
Commentaries for each feature are provided by their respective directors. Neither are the most exciting guys on the planet, with both contributions ultimately reasonably gappy and delivered with a lack of gusto. Still, both have plenty of behind the scenes guff to impart, not to mention giving away those nods to films which some may have missed. The Legend commentary ends up the most inviting, although both are worth a listen if you’re intrigued by the mechanics behind the creation of such intricate animation and well-crafted stories.
Each episode also comes with a behind the scenes featurette, the two varying greatly in style and content. Hooves… (5:38) is hosted by some monkey who flits about while the clever people do their work, punctuated by overly liberal grabs from the finished film. The presentation for Legend… (9:37) is much better, though, offering interviews with some of the technical folk and examples of what it is they actually do.
There’s also an animated storyboard for Hooves (28:52), presenting rough pencil sketches with a combination of finished and unfinished audio, also offering up a chance for keener observers to note some changes made by the time the final production flew off into the big wide world. Legend… offers us a brief 1:37 of time lapse footage, showing just how much painstaking patience is involved with such a production, while an interview with director Peter Peake (13:04) has much to muse over for those who sit through it.
Some fairly standard cast and crew biographies round out the package, plus there’s also an easily found Easter Egg which delivers a little extra behind the scenes peek – you can mosey on by our Easter Eggs section for the skinny on this one.
With that magical and hard to achieve advantage of appealing equally to kids of all ages, unless you’re severely corpsed up, have an inoperable humour deficiency or are a federal Liberal politician, you’re guaranteed to be swept up and spirited away by the delights on offer from Robbie and his funky bunch of cohorts. With a reasonable collection of extra goodies, superb vision and fabulous audio that’s only let down slightly by the lack of a 5.1 soundtrack for Legend…, this is one of those DVDs which will be brought out again and again and again, and not necessarily only around the time that the jolly old girth-challenged fellow does his annual chimney invasion thing.
"Unless you’re severely corpsed up or have an inoperable humour deficiency, you’re guaranteed to be swept up and spirited away by the delights on offer from Robbie and his funky bunch of cohorts..." - Amy Flower
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... "