Thursday, October 30, 2008

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1985)

Okay, last one of these for a while. Tomorrow we'll move on to something else. Maybe something spooky.

For the sake of completeness, I watched this 1985 animated Australian version of 20,000 Leagues. Not expecting much, by the way. I had in mind that it would probably be one of those cheap knock-off videos you see at the grocery store. Not really though. I was pleasantly surprised.

There's even a name actor in the voice cast. At least Tom Burlinson was a name actor back in the '80s when he starred in The Man From Snowy River. He plays Ned Land here and it strikes me that the more famous Ned (Kirk Douglas) was also in Snowy River. Interesting coincidence, if it is a coincidence.

The animation, while not Disney-quality, isn't too shabby either. At least the character designs are interesting. Nemo is kind of a fat guy, which is an interesting choice, but not invalid. I like how Aronnax and Conseil look like they come out of European comics, especially Conseil. Ned Land (a Canadian in the novel) is built like a lumberjack.

The Nautilus is a nice combination of the novel's cigar-shaped vessel and Disney's stylized steampunk version. There's nothing fancy about the way people and things move in general and most of the acting is choppy, but there are some nice animation moments where boats bob and float like they should and characters move underwater like they should. The giant squid is also nicely done with tentacles that whip around dangerously.

It's interesting that the squid fight is moved up in the story to pretty much right after Aronnax and Company board the Nautilus. The movie's only about 50 minutes long, so the story is super compressed and that's just about perfect. They keep the tension between Aronnax and Nemo as well as the conflict between Aronnax/Nemo and Ned. Conseil (as in the novel) pretty much agrees to whatever Aronnax wants to do. They also hit the most memorable parts of the novel like Ned's adventure on the island, the sinking of the warship, the undersea funeral, and Atlantis, while skipping over the boring bits.

And for Atlantis, they punch it up a notch by adding giant crabs.

All in all, not shabby in the least. The opening framing sequence is too long, but it's pretty to look at, so it's not awful. There's some slapstick for the kids, but most of it's genuinely funny instead of irritating. The sound is snazzy too, especially with surround-sound. Any time the characters are on board the Nautilus there's always background noise of clanking and humming as the ship goes about its work. It added a lot to the experience.

This would be a pretty cool introduction to the story for children. Not as cool as the Disney version, of course, but if time or attention spans are an issue (for you or for any kids in the audience), it's an enjoyable substitute.

Four out of five giant crabs.


houseofduck said...

I just picked this and a couple of the Fliesher Superman dvd's up at walmart for like $2.00 a piece the other day. I will have to go watch it now...

Right after I finish rewatching the LOTR movies...

Michael May said...

Cool! I'd love to hear what you think about it.


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