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The Music and Animation Collection
Running Time: 43 minutes
Starring: Paul McCartney
Music by: Paul McCartney
Directed by: Geoff Dunbar
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Paul Talks About The Animation Collection, The Making Of Tropic Island Hum, The Making Of Tuesday, Line Tests, Storyboards, Layouts
Specs: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions
Released: April 13th, 2004
What else is there to say about Paul McCartney? Part of the legendary group The Beatles and known for his outstanding songwriting and performing, the man is certainly one of the world's biggest talents and celebrities. However, Paul McCartney has other passions too. It's apparent from this DVD collection that he not only loves music, but he loves animals, loves children's stories, loves animation and has an undying passion for frogs (can you think of any other reasons why frogs play crucial roles in all the animated stories?).
"Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection" presents three shorts made over a sixteen year time span (some may disappointed that there aren't any new animated shorts here). McCartney partnered with renowned British animator Geoff Dunbar, who helped craft and directed all three shorts in this set (I've heard of Mr. Dunbar and am slightly familiar with his work, but other than die-hard animation fans, I'm not sure who really has). I suppose what makes these animated stories so unique is McCartney's direct involvement with them. McCartney not only produced all of them, but he also contributed voice work and helped with the story process.
So what shorts are there? First up is an original from 1997, entitled "Tropic Island Hum." It focuses on a William The Squirrel, AKA Wirral, who escapes hunters thanks to a balloon flying frog named Froggo. The two crash land on an island where animals play and co-exist peacefully, without any worries. Oh, and Wirral falls in love.
The second, based on David Wiesner's storybook, is "Tuesday" and was made in the year 2000. There's not much to say about this one except on one Tuesday night, frogs begin to float mysteriously on their lilypads and create their own little chaos in a nearby town (kind of like "Magnolia," but not as intense). The narration is done by Dustin Hoffman. On a touching note, it is dedicated to Paul's late wife Linda, who on a side note helped Paul develop the other two shorts in the collection and who was also going to make this one with her husband.
Finally, the last short was actually the first one produced all the way back in 1984 and is also the longest. Entitled "Rupert and the Frog Song," it starts the beloved comic strip character Rupert The Bear. In the story, Rupert goes exploring and ends up following frogs into a cave where the Frog King and Frog Queen are having a celebration. But it's not all fine and dandy when it comes to owls wanting to attack the frogs, and of course, Rupert saves their lives (so animals can be the enemy too?).
What is most noteworthy about these animated shorts is that McCartney contributed original music to each. "Tropic Island Hum" and "Rupert and The Frog Song" each feature a pretty elaborate, jovial and easy-to-sing-along-with musical number, while "Tuesday" features a moody, atmospheric and subtle score that show McCartney's far ranging musical talents. While the two songs probably won't go down as my favorite McCartney written tunes ever, let alone is not the musical stylings I prefer of him, they are likeable songs that are certainly catchy and accessible to the core audience for these short films: kids.
But there's certainly a lot to appreciate in each short other than the music. As all of them helmed by Dunbar, the traditional hand-drawn animation is particuarly gorgeous and has a style each its own. Even if "Tuesday" uses some computer generated effects, it's still very much in 2-D and perfectly captures the style of Wiesner's illustrations. The Rupert film has a more classic look, while "Tropic Island Hum" is incredibly colorful and detailed. The animation flows quite smoothly on all of them too. As some of you know, I'm a really big supporter of 2-D animation and I still find it hard to believe that it is a dying art form. It shouldn't be, and each of these three shorts are great examples of just how exquisite and unique it can be.
Overall though, these are perfectly fine animated shorts, but I don't think I'm the right age for them. Despite how pleasant and nice they are, the content of these stories are strictly kid-friendly. But that's okay, as this is quality animation to show children with everlasting, worthwhile and universal themes. Other than showcasing Mr. McCartney's love of frogs, it also shows his humanitarian spirit in protecting animals (he is a vegetarian after all) and his love of childhood innocence. Older folk may find the stories here uninteresting and childish, and may be disappointed that they aren't more broad or have subtle nods to them (a la many animated movies in this current age). If that's how they feel though, they are missing the point of what McCartney is trying to do here.
With that said, I'm not sure if I can recommend this collection of shorts to everybody. Kids will love them, and only certain older fans of animation will probably truly appreciate them. Nonetheless, McCartney's spirit and pure love is in full force here, and when celebrities do projects like this, you usually only see a name and public relations fluff. It's quite admirable of McCartney, as it's sensed that he truly wanted to make the shorts special. His collaboration with Geoff Dunbar proves to be strong too, so if any of what I've said sounds appealing to you, don't hesitate to check this collection out.
All three animated pieces are presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the shorts appear to be matted a little bit. Nonetheless, the quality on all of them are rather outstanding. There is some slight noise to be had, but most distracting are the nicks, dirt pieces and blemishes that pop up somewhat constantly. Other than that, everything else is very easy on the eyes. There us no edge enhancement, detail is nice and the color saturation is very strong. The colors are solid, and none of them bleed as the animation certainly pops right out at you. Good work.
All the shorts have also been mixed into English Dolby Digital 5.1, and the results are pretty stellar. Dialogue is very crisp on all of the shorts, and there are plenty of surround effects that are quite discrete: opening gunshots in "Topic Island Hum," frogs ribbiting, floating and the night noises in "Tuesday" and Rupert's exploits. And then there's Paul McCartney's music. The two songs come out pretty aggressive but are full of life and energy; the songs make the speakers burst out like they're at a party with strong use of them, while McCartney's "Tuesday" score lays right under the action like a bottom layer and perfectly sets the mood. The fidelity on the shorts are higher than I expected, and the overall dynamics on each are great. Subwoofer use is also pretty decent. I must say the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix did exceed my expecations. Spanish subtitles and English closed captions through your television are featured too, just in case you need them.
Paul Talks About The Animation Collection is a new seven minute interview in full frame where McCartney talks about the origins of the shorts, his thoughts on animation and his work in general on doing the shorts, all intersliced with clips from the shorts. He also comes across quite knowledgable and appreciative of 2-D animation. Kids may not care too much for this, but the older fans will certainly enjoy McCartney talking.
The Making Of Tropic Island Hum lasts twelve minutes and is filmed in a partially arty style (black and white with hints of color before going fully to color and then going back again). This is also for older fans. Geoff Dunbar plays tour guide, as he talks about the whole process of making the short come to life. You see him and fellow animators drawing, pencil tests, storyboards, layouts, painting, filming and a bit more. There's even footage of McCartney in the animation studio getting pretty hands on. It's a bit dry, but you really see how careful and dedicated these animatiors are.
The Making Of Tuesday also lasts about twelve minutes (and is in non-anamorphic widescreen), and is clever in how it keeps in style with the timed concept of story. McCartney is featured in this one even more, as the actual book is showed off as well as some interesting processes the filmmakers used (such as doing live action tests for visual aids). The same concepts of the last featurette apply here too: drawing, pencil tests and the like. But there's a focus on the computer work used in the short and McCartney's score being recorded, both of which are pretty fascinating. I found the split screen comparisons most fascinating: it's amazing how a live action McCartney was perfectly animated as far as his movements and gestures. Dunbar and team are featured here again too, and even though this featurette is more technical than the last one, I think it's also a lot better.
Rounding things out are Line Tests for all three shorts, plus Storyboards for "Tropic Island Hum" and "Tuesday" and Layouts for "Topic Island Hum." It's always interesting to see how the animation comes together, and as a result, this stuff ends up being pretty lengthy.
Included inside the keep case is a very nice collectible booklet with stills, information on the three shorts, stills, a biography on Geoff Dunbar, a biography on Paul McCartney and lyrics to the songs that appear in the shorts. Very classy. And I can't forget to mention that McCartney narrates some of the menus.
These are some pretty nice shorts for children with some kid-friendly tunes from Paul McCartney, but older audiences may not find much to like about them other than the animation style and McCartney's presence. Still, if you have any children or know some young kids, this is a nice DVD set to pick up for them since they'll probably enjoy the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the stories. The shorts are presented quite nicely as far as sound and picture quality, and there are some decent extras to boot. Still, the shorts only run about 40 minutes together (not counting credits and McCartney's intro and outro) and the pricing on this is a bit steep. But I know there are some die-hard McCartney fans out there and those who enjoy Geoff Dunbar's work, so some of you will be inclined to pick this up no matter what.