Animators are licensed to toy with cause-and-effect. I wonder if particle physicists envy them. Or if embryologists wish they could invent the organic metamorphoses that mark so many animated films. Working with toy figurines, Belgian co-directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar take their twenty-episode 2003 TV series into a big-screen feature that packs delicious, delirious plot trajectories into a fleet seventy-five-minute tale of two birthday parties for Horse (voiced in subtitled French by Patar). Cowboy (Aubier) and Indian (Bruce Ellison) plan to build Horse a barbeque pit as a gift, but a bumped key on a computer keyboard adds a long string of zeros to their fifty-brick online order. The delivery of this mighty mass deforms the local geology of the tiny farm hamlet of the title. Adventures ensue underwater with aqualungs. One of the poles is terrorized by a giant mechanical penguin operated by scientists in white lab coats who lob jumbo snowballs with its metal flippers. Animals mobilize other animals as projectiles in combat. The comic machinery and manic whimsy all lead up to Horse’s next birthday as he courts a local equine, the music teacher. “A Town Called Panic” is a giddy torrent of inventive detail wrangled with elastic logic by buoyant hearts. With the voices of Jeanne Balibar, Nicolas Buysse, Véronique Dumont and François Neyken. 75m. (Bill Stamets)
“A Town Called Panic” opens Friday at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.