The Other Side of Animation 242: Robin Robin Review

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Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Aardman is one of the most prolific animation studios known to the world of animation. With their high-quality award-winning stop-motion shorts, shows, and films that have spanned multiple generations of viewers, which shouldn’t be shocking due to their multiple classic films including the Wallace & Gromit series of shorts, Chicken Run, Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Shaun the Sheep, and the underrated Early Man. Sadly, as much as we would all like to say everything they make rakes in the bank, that sure as heck isn’t what happens with the box office returns for their more recent outings. As much love as this studio and their work gets, no one seems to show up for them. It’s been said time and time again that if you want to see stop-motion films in theaters, then you need to actually show up! Granted, it didn’t help when Early Man was released right next to Black Panther, but the point remains that many moviegoers simply don’t want to see stop-motion on the big screen, and that is why Aardman has buddied up with Netflix here in the states. They get more mileage from streaming than they have had with recent theatrical success. Unless everyone puts their money where their mouths are, this is the direction where stop-motion is going to head. Now then, with a new lifeline for Aardman, and some progressive changes made behind the scenes, let’s see how they handle a new visual style for their stop-motion work where they move from plasticine to felt with their Christmas Special, Robin Robin


Directed by Daniel Ojara and Mikey Please, this charming little tale is about a Robin named, well, Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, who is raised by a family of mice led by a father mouse voiced by Adeel Akhtar. After failing another heist of getting crumbs and food for the mice, Robin is feeling complacent about her place in the mouse family and sets off on an adventure to try to get something for them while maybe learning who she is along the way. As this journey progresses, we run into a crow that loves shiny things voiced by Richard E. Grant, and a predatory cat voiced by Gillian Anderson. 



One of the new changes to their animation style this time around is the much-talked-about felt-like designs of the characters. They look like dolls or Christmas tree ornaments from a bygone era with there being very few details to show the seams or however they truly put together these character models. Stop-motion is a backbreaking and brutal form of art and animation, and that’s why it’s always so impressive to see it done, no matter who the studio is. Even with this change in designs and visuals, it still looks like an Aardman joint due to the designs themselves. You even see some smaller details like pupils that change size and other little details shown throughout the 30-minute runtime. Even how it makes snow, wind, and environment is constantly awe-inspiring, and how they tell the story of the backyard that this all takes place in through environmental storytelling is incredible. Some of it even looks like the ruins of an ancient civilization. I mean, the giant statues you see are just garden gnomes, but still. Due to this taking place during the holidays, there are a ton of warm and cozy colors that give you the feeling of being with your family or by the fireplace. They even let you know who the characters are by how they move. You can tell what’s going to happen with Robin even before the characters go into the house. 




With the 30-minute runtime, the special itself was able to tell a charming and compelling story about different family situations, identity, fitting in. It’s all wrapped up in a special that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the only sign of wanting it to be longer is because of how utterly charming the overall world and story is. It’s an all-killer no-filler-style special, and it was able to fit in so much of that iconic Aardman charm and wit. In addition, there are plenty of clever jokes via the dialogue and background gags to go around. 





Of course, everything is held together by a splendid voice cast that includes the names mentioned above, with Richard E. Grant being as sly and fun as ever with whatever role he is taking part in. Gillian Anderson is quiet, tactical, and always a threat as the cat, and pulls in some real 90s-era Disney villain vibes. Adeel Akhtar, while not having a lot of time on screen, is warm and loving as the father mouse. The true standout performer though is Bronte Carmichael as Robin. She brings a lovable innocence to her performance, and you do feel for her wanting to do everything to make her adopted family and her friends happy.  The music flows from the dialogue sequences, and as such, they feel natural. It’s never distracting when they move through each song, and it’s impressive to see them not take a moment to pause everything to go full-on Broadway musical. The story is constantly moving forward and so is the music. 

Robin Robin is an absolutely sweet and wholesome special that becomes another knockout classic from the famed UK studio. It’s on Netflix, so unless you don’t have it, you have no reason to not put this on your Holiday rotation alongside the amazing Klaus. If you want something extremely full of what the holiday spirit should be, then you will love Robin Robin. Next time, we will be covering the French epic, The Summit of The Gods. 

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Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation: Room on the Broom Review

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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!