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  • 3 Short film - The Challenge, The Story Of Whomps, One Stayed Clean

Recess - All Growed Down

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 57 mins . G . PAL


I havenít seen the first Recess movie, nor have I ever seen the television series that airs on The Disney Channel (among others). However in watching this 58-minute film (and the bonus episodes that follow) I felt I got enough info to put it all together.

We focus on a small group of kids who are in the middle ranks of the schoolyard pecking order. Their group is taken hostage by the kindergarteners and in trying to convince them to let them go, they detail many and varied stories of their previous relationships with the youngsters. And maybe, just maybe, they can even help the kindergarteners outwit a bully who is making them act in ways they donít wish to.

"Kid, youíll go far. All you need are the right breaks, a diverse and special group of friends and of courseÖ the proper headgear."

Based loosely on a real-world evolutionary class system, the kindergarteners of Recess are primal savages replete with warpaint and primitive tools. As they get older they progress up the social ladder until, by grade six, they are the regal rulers of the school. TJ, the leader of our main group of characters and unwritten leader of grade four, must balance his leadership with his friendship to help his friends get through the rigours of day to day life in this odd hierarchy. It seems like a simple idea, but one thatís never been used so cleverly (or obviously) in drawing a comparison between school life and the life we must accustom to on the outside.

The film appears to have been a feature length episode for television at some point, as it begins using 2D scanned artwork in the animation but, in frequent flashbacks, goes to earlier cel renderings that are nowhere near the same quality of finished animation. Hence in this way was it easy enough to piece together what was going on in this bizarre schoolyard.

The animation is fine, but in no way is it of cinema release quality. Remember when Bart wanted to go and see the Itchy and Scratchy Movie and in the movie ad it said Ď54% new footageí? Thatís sorta what this film feels like. Plenty of other episodes cobbled together to make a massive clip show, but I hadnít seen any of them so it was acceptable. Still, it was quite watchable as the tales of the past unfurl to describe the world the characters currently live in with their relationships, trials and tribulations.

The kids will like it, no doubt, as I did. The characters are warm enough and well described. Naturally thereís one kid in the group from every suburban stereotype for more mass appeal Ė this is a simple formula you can see in just about any kids' vehicle (and sometimes even adult ones). Look at shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, South Park or any Disney film. There are most often a hugely diverse group of characters designed carefully so you will find yourself favouring, or at least relating to, at least one of them. Itís used a lot because it works the best, and it does so here.


Being made for television, naturally we get the 4:3 aspect ratio. This works alright and the film has been well laid-out to suit. The earlier cel work has some cel artefacts, but these are to be expected in any cel animation. However, they do seem to be well-cleaned and look pretty clear here, but for a tragic error at 18:35 in which nine consecutive cels contain photocopy deterioration (in older hand-painted cel animation, the hand-drawn pages are photocopied directly to cel to save time. These are then reversed and painted in the style we all know. Sometimes, if paint isnít quite dry or the scene is shot in a hurry, this kind of deterioration appears when the toner is rubbed off the acetate cel, leaving the paint underneath).

The rest, and particularly the modern digital scanned animation, all looks pretty much fine and is brightly coloured and well saturated with the rare blacks appearing true.


Dialogue is all fine and although delivered in differing ages and speech impediments, sounds clear enough with no trouble in understanding. Sound effects are naturally comical in origin and are well synched for the most part. Although delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the surrounds sleep their way through the film with nothing to do and the subwoofer does pretty much the same thing.

Dennis M. Hanniganís score is well suited to be comedic and light-hearted and fills out the show nicely, lending appropriate mood as required.


The only extras come in the mildly animated menus and three bonus episodes of Recess from the TV series. All up they play for 34:40 and are all older cel-based episodes. Two of these are directed by Chuck Sheetz who is also the major director from many of the flashbacks in the main feature. His two are The Story of Whomps and One Stayed Clean which was my personal favourite. The other is entitled The Challenge and all feature the same characters enduring more misadventures.

Definitely fill out the value of the disc to a regular(ish) 92-minutes, but a little bit more wouldnít have gone astray.


If the little dudes at your house are fans of the show, this will no doubt be a welcome inclusion for them. If they donít know the show, this will work well as an introduction, as the back stories on many of the current themes of the film and series are seemingly filled in. Itís a fun show that is subtly politically correct and is a nice analogy to the regimen of primary school we all remember (perhaps not so fondly). The animation is fine for TV with plenty of attractive colours and cheerful stories and more than a few adult references for the mums and dads to pick up on.

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      And I quote...
    "This is a fun series existing in a strange schoolyard where evolution is at its most obvious. And most colourful."
    - Jules Faber
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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