Review
Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Noell Wolfgram Evans · June 21, 2004 | Paul McCartney shouldn't need a drop of an introduction; the man's been a pop culture icon for over forty years. With his track record of success across the board, you can get a pretty good feeling that if his name is on the entertainment, you've got a more than better chance for great things. And yet when I received this DVD collection in the mail, I found myself with a fair amount of skepticism. What's he up to, I wondered? Now he's an animation artist. In protest I let the film sit on my desk for a few days; I wasn't about to just fall over myself to satisfy an artist's latest interest. Finally, though, I opened the box and read the booklet which led me to watch the films. I was pleased to discover that I was wrong, that Mr. McCartney wasn't just working his ego out on a new interest—that he in fact has had a lifelong love affair with animation, an affair that he had consummated numerous times during his career. With this DVD he seems to be using his fame for good, to bring this animation that he has loved and worked on (by providing story ideas and of course soundtracks) to a broader audience.

The DVD contains three distinct pieces of animation. Rupert and the Frog Song is the oldest of the group, having been completed in 1983. Mr. McCartney has always been a fan of the character Rupert (star of comics and storybooks) and had dreamed of one day seeing the bear star in a feature film. He tried once, unsuccessfully, in the 1970s but success didn't come until 1981, when he teamed up with the Grand Slamm Partnership studio to produce this short. Its original intent was to build excitement and financial backing for a feature length film. Although the film did receive moderate success with a BAFTA Best Animated Short award and a top ten single for Mr. McCartney, it didn't push Rupert any farther and after a short theatrical run sat silently. Thankfully it's been brought back out for a new generation of Rupert and animation fans. The 13-minute story of Rupert's adventures underground has all of the markings of standard storybook business. But what puts this film above average is the classic styled 2D animation (that admittedly feels quaint in some points) and an extended musical sequence. These two pieces combine together along with the uniquely British sensibility of Rupert to create a classy and calm piece of animation.

Joining Rupert on this DVD are Wirral and Froggo, the stars of Tropical Island Hum. This 2D short unfortunately doesn't meet expectations. While the film looks great, the story is slight and seems to be nothing more than the set up to a prolonged musical set piece where the residents of the island sing a song by Mr. McCartney. What should be the centerpiece of the film though plays flat as the music is a little too lite-FM (and long) and the animation never challenges it. This whole piece, in fact, really lacks an edge to it. It opens with a nervy scene following two hunters chasing a squirrel in a black forest which fails to be anything more than just okay—it never pushes to be anything other than average. Not that it needs to be a message movie or some gothic horror piece, but anything other than a trite 1980's music video would have been better.

Tuesday is the third and perhaps best film of the DVD, a nearly wordless adaptation of David Wisner's book of the same name. The animation is solid and real yet fanciful, and the story, about frogs who find the ability to fly, is perfectly paced. The entire piece is peppered with some great sight gags that are allowed to unfold so that they work within the confines of the story. The jokes aren't throwaway pieces—they are layered into the film and repeat viewings are really needed to take them all in. All of this is moved along to a score by Mr. McCartney that is probably his best piece of music here. It's subtle and unobtrusive, working as a perfectly constructed element in the telling of this story. A brief note here: It is billed that Dustin Hoffman is the narrator of Tuesday, but his contribution is two lines, and short ones at that.

Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection
Miramax Home Entertainment, 2004
Directed by Geoff Dunbar, Amanda Massa and Robert Stanger
103 minutes

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While Mr. McCartney's name is on the title of this set, Geoff Dunbar deserves a large share of the credit as well. Director Dunbar, principal at High Eagle Productions, is an animation veteran with over 30 years of experience under his pen including tours of duty at Larkins Studio, Halas and Batchelor and Dragon Productions. Over the course of his career, he has won numerous awards including the Palme D'Or, a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and several British Academy Awards. He created the odd, in your face, stylized stories of Lautrec and Ubu and then moved on to direct early episodes of the BBC hit The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends before beginning his partnership with Mr. McCartney. It's a partnership that's resulted in the films on this DVD, among others—including another BAFTA award winner, Daumier's Law, in 1992.

On this DVD you can witness Mr. Dunbar at work in several "making of" featurettes. Animation fans will be interested in these along with the storyboards and line tests that are a part of the extras as well.

The end result of this DVD is a mixed one. To have one solidly entertaining animated short and one pretty good piece on one DVD isn't that bad; guys have been elected to the Hall of Fame with lower averages than that. And you have to be somewhat happy to see such a big-name star putting his name and talents behind animation in this way. Still, I do wish that he had perhaps been a little more selective in his choices. But if he's truly interested in animation, we can only hope that he'll continue releasing carefully crafted DVDs in this manner, bringing new animation to large audiences and hopefully upping the quality along the way.
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