The Other Side of Animation 47: The BFG Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When you hear the term “made-for-TV movie”, quality entertainment isn’t usually what you think of. I mean, there are exceptions today if you see an exclusive film on Netflix or HBO, but usually, it’s a film with a TV-sized budget that has the off chance of being good, but is mostly low quality schlock. Not to say that there can’t be a good animated TV film, but they are rare and far between. Now, if this was back in the day, I would say a different answer entirely, since depending on the company, you could get some top-notch animation. This is where today’s film, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) comes into play. This was a British-animated film that was a TV special that aired in 1989. It was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films, which is most famous for Danger Mouse, and Count Duckula. The BFG was directed by the late Brian Cosgrove, who was a director for both Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. At its release, this movie was rated pretty positively, and I have seen many people nostalgically comment on the film. So, does it hold up today? Let’s find out!

The main story revolves around a young orphan girl named Sophie, voiced by Amanda Root. One night at the orphanage, she is kidnapped by this massive hooded individual, and taken to Giant Country. Of course, like anyone in this situation, she is terrified to be in front of a giant. Luckily, it turns out that she was accidentally kidnapped by the BFG, or as he says, The Big Friendly Giant, voiced by David Jason. The BFG doesn’t eat humans unlike the rest of his kind. It then turns into a film where Sophie bonds with The BFG, and the goal becomes trying to stop the other nasty giants from eating the humans of the world.

Let’s get whizzpopped, and look at the good parts of the film. Being made in Europe and in the end of the 1980s, the 2D animation is rather nice looking. It’s always pleasant to see how the rest of the world treats 2D animation with the respect it deserves, and while there are a few elements showing off its TV budget limitation, the character’s movements are fluid, expressive, and look so much better than what you would expect TV animation to be. Not to say there wasn’t good TV animation in this time period, but I wouldn’t say it was all great either, which is why I adore the visually pleasing animation of The BFG. Due to the time period this was released, you also get a lot of trippy and atmospheric scenery that engrosses you into its fantasy world, with its mix of bright and dark colors that set the tone of the different scenes. I also liked how there is a bit of an edge to the overall film, like seeing the giants actually eat children. Sure, it’s off-screen, but to show that this actually happens is still admirable. The voice acting is also pretty solid. I think David Jason brings an enjoyable light-hearted tone to the BFG, and captures the elements that make the character charming, like his speech impediment, and how he actually goes out and gives children and people happy dreams.

With that said, I do think this film does have some problems. The little girl is not really that interesting, as she comes off more like any normal child character that you still sadly see these days, and I feel like they could have made her bond with the BFG much stronger. I also found the BFG, while likable, to be a tiny bit too goofy. He wasn’t downright annoying, but they could have toned the goofy side down a bit. The other human characters are also pretty forgettable. Oh, and that little animal thing that is sort of in the movie is also pointless. I saw no reason for that little critter to be there. I think overall, the film needed more…interesting writing. If this film was done during Don Bluth’s hit line of films, or maybe done by a different director, they could have made the film a lot more fascinating. They could have delved into the darker themes, more into the other deadly giants, shown on-screen the humans getting eaten instead of off-screen. I also get why they had song sequences, but I wouldn’t say they were necessary.

While I can see why the original author of the book, Roald Dahl, liked this film, and you can tell the creators were very passionate for it, I just think it’s okay. If you really love this movie, then more power to you, I don’t think this is a bad movie by any stretches of the imagination. It has great animation, a likable lead character, some gorgeous scenery and atmosphere, and was not a waste of my time to watch the 92 minutes. I just think it could have been a lot more interesting. The DVD copy of this film is very easy to find and is cheap on Amazon.com. If you want to see another version of The BFG that is not the recently released and sadly flopping live-action version by Steven Spielberg, then you won’t be wasting too much time with this old animated gem. Now then, you might not be wasting your time with this movie, but you will feel like it’s a waste of time for the next movie as we look at A Wind Named Amnesia. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Rent It

The Other Side of Animation: Room on the Broom Review

(If you would like to see more of my work, go to camseyeview.biz and if you would like to, consider supporting my Patreon on patreon.com/camseyeview. Enjoy the review!)

Originally, I was going to review The Book of Life as the second part of this Halloween double feature alongside the first Hotel Transylvania film. However, I remembered a while back about a short film called Possessions that was nominated for the 86th Academy Awards Best Short Film. I looked up the rest of the nominations that were in that award show, and spotted a short film that I have seen on Netflix called Room on the Broom. Directed by Max Lang, known for the short film, The Gruffalo, and Jan Lachauer, Room on the Broom is based off the picture book of the same name by Julia Donaldson. Another distinction it has is how it is described as a 3D stop-motion film where a majority of the film is in stop-motion, and some CGI effects were put in to help with the limitations of making everything with clay. This film is also well known for its surprising cast of actors, but we will get to them later. Now then, shall we see if this witch’s broom had room to win an Academy Award? Let’s find out.

The story is about a witch, voiced by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, who, well, has a broom, and a pet cat voiced by Rob Brydon. The overall story is about their travels across the land, meeting new characters like a dog, voiced by Martin Clunes, a bird, voiced by Sally Hawkins, a frog, voiced by David Walliams, and they even encounter a dragon, voiced by Timothy Spall. Oh, and to round out the talent, the narrator is voiced by Simon Pegg.

So, for a short film based on a children’s book, how is it? Well, let’s talk about the good stuff, first. For 27 minutes, the film’s mix of Claymation and CGI is done quite well. It’s bright, colorful, and the animation is expressive. There is a really nice calming atmosphere to the overall journey. It helps that Simon Pegg does a wonderful job telling the story, using a quiet tone that fits the overall mood of everything. It’s not a super intense book, or a story that is hyper. It’s a soothing narration that could easily help a child close his or her eyes on the way to slumberland. The experience also has some simple morals any young person could recognize, like sharing, friendship, and overcoming adversity. The other voice actors do a good job with their roles, even though they don’t have many actual lines.

The overall package is simple, but I do have some complaints. First off, why did the film need big-named actors like Gillian Anderson or Timothy Spall? I understand Simon Pegg, but for characters who don’t talk much, they got some big named people. Granted, I doubt expanding this kind of story would have been worth the time and budget, but the characters are a bit simple, and don’t have a whole lot of personality to them. They are likable enough, but there isn’t much to them. I respect the organization that sets up the Academy Awards for nominating this movie, but compared to other films that were in this category like Possessions and Mr. Hublot, it might be a tad too simple to have actually won. Do I think it didn’t deserve to be nominated at all? Of course not! I’m not too familiar with animated short films, and as one of the few that I have watched, I could understand why it deserved to be on the list. Or, you know, they wanted to find candidates so Disney wasn’t the only one on there.

It’s honestly quite hard to really make this a complex review. It’s such a simple story, and it’s innocent. I didn’t find anything insulting or demeaning to children, which is pretty much a good thing. You can make a simple story, but everything needs to be executed correctly, or else complications can happen that might ruin whatever message or story you are trying to tell. I found it hard to hate such a film that had nothing, but good intentions. It passes with flying colors. With great animation and a whimsical charm to the overall product, Room on the Broom is a fun little romp. Just go in knowing this is written for a younger audience. Well, now that we got that film out of the way, we are getting close to the 10th review on The Other Side of Animation, so we might as well cover two infamously terrible films. Let’s start with a film that blatantly rode on the pigtails of Frozen’s hype with The Snow Queen. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!