Over the Hedge

So I finally got around to seeing this movie yesterday. I had ambivalent feelings about this film when it was first released and those feelings continue. Dave Burgess who was one of my temporary mentors while at Animation Mentor, was one of the Supervising Animators on this film – so I was looking forward to some good animation. It wasn’t bad, there were a lot of good clips, some not so good (which is to be expected I think). But I think that I enjoyed the animation more in the movie Madagascar.

The story itself wasn’t anything to write home about… I mean, c’mon, RJ the racoon so deserved to get eaten by the bear – why would you feel bad for him? It also felt as if Dreamworks couldn’t figure out who the actual ‘bad guy’ was… Lastly, I didn’t have much empathy for any of the characters.

The real gotcha in this film was the attempt to move characters over from a comic strip to a feature film. They had a bunch of hurdles to overcome in order to do this successfully, but I don’t think they cleared any of the important ones.

First off, when you’ve read a comic strip for awhile you sort of form voices for each of the characters in your head (well, I do). When those voices that correspond to the comic strip characters in your head don’t jive with the voices on screen… well… it certainly doesn’t help you to suspend your disbelief. Second, there is a world of difference between the visual design of the characters in the strip as compared to the movie. In the special edition section of the DVD they mentioned they were going to have trouble with this, and that they opted not to try to re-create the look of the strip. Big mistake. There is just something in the 2d version of the strip that adds so much to the humor. They didn’t capture this in the 3d version. Third, the actual personality of the characters didn’t correspond between the strip and film. For example, Hammy is depicted as a squirrel on a constant sugar high. Zipping this way and that. Well, if you’ve followed the comic strip, he sure doesn’t come across that way. Bottom line? It just didn’t work for me. It was like a totally different movie that had nothing to do with the strip.

A good example of a comic strip that was made into a film/tv show that worked for me was the Peanuts gang (Charlie Brown and gang). Somehow they made the voices pretty close to what was in my head (at least not so different that I noticed – I mean Bruce Willis as RJ??) and moreover the look of the show was exactly like the look of the strip. It rocks. The animation is simple, but I feel the comic strip come to life. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The illusion of life.