Miramax // 2004 // 43 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Gutierrez (Retired) // May 12th, 2004
"Magic." -- Paul McCartney
I have a new love of frogs. This is due in no small part to the number of them featured in Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection. I don't mind at all, though. I loved every minute of this thing. From top to bottom, this is an excellent collection of three shorts centering on the lives of animals.
Since his days as frontman and leader for Wings, McCartney wanted to do something with animation. Originally, he and his late wife Linda drummed up the idea to showcase a family of mice that lived on a Wings tour bus. Nothing more evolved from this, but the seed was planted.
Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection consists of three shorts: "Tropic Island Hum," "Rupert and the Frog Song," and "Tuesday." All three revolve around anthropomorphic animals and barely feature any humans at all. Paul McCartney bookends the shorts, complete with a strange tag at the end. Geoff Dunbar is responsible for the directorial duties on all three entries in this collection. Dunbar gives each short an individual style and look. McCartney's mitts are all over this DVD, having provided voices for most of the characters and all the music.
The DVD contains three shorts. Some spoilers, so beware.
"Tropic Island Hum"
"Tropic Island Hum" tells the story of Wirral the squirrel and his exodus to an island refuge filled only with animals. Wirral is on the run from a pair of hunters when salvation comes in the form of Froggo the frog and his hot air balloon. Since it's a Paul McCartney production, there's music. Wirral takes a seat and watches the island's inhabitants break into a song and dance number until it's time for him to save them from a crazy monkey. Viewers may also find the animation was in the vein of the old Superman Fleischer cartoons with some elements of Disney character design. Chronologically, this was McCartney's second original animation production, originally completed in 1995.
McCartney's most recent animated short is the second entry on this disc, "Tuesday" chronicles the adventures of a group of frogs taking flight one magical Tuesday night. Based upon the book of the same name by David Weisner, "Tuesday" is the only short to merge hand-drawn and computer animation. Keep an ear out for the closing monologue by Dustin Hoffman.
"Rupert and the Frog Song"
Finally, we have "Rupert and the Frog Song." Being the young and curious bear he is, Rupert wanders through the English countryside and stumbles upon a rare frog ritual. Based on characters from the popular English series, "Rupert and the Frog Song" features the Paul McCartney song "We All Stand Together."
Beatlemaniac bias aside, I thought this was a tremendous effort by McCartney and company. Given McCartney's oft-admitted love of animation, it makes sense that he would put his money where his mouth is and help to create some of the best looking original animation I've seen in a long, long time.
I had first seen some line tests and footage from "Tropic Island Hum" on Paul McCartney: In the World Tonight and wondered what came of it. I'm glad I finally found out. Fans of older Disney films will love this one. It's beautifully drawn, the directing is strong, and the viewer will hum its catchy song. I caught myself doing so the other day. I liked virtually every character. Based on the care that went into creating Wirral, Froggo the frog, Chief Bison, and Wilhemina the squirrel, I hope I get to see more of them in the future.
The all-around strongest short is "Tuesday." Essentially, it's an animated dream. Everything falls together nicely and works to perfection on this one. The only drawback to this piece was the slight edging around the flying lilypads. This odd movement is the only giveaway to the digital assistance employed in a few scenes. The two main frogs, Bob and Al, are instantly likeable and expressive. McCartney's subtle score helps add to an already strong piece with its subtlety and grace. Sadly, the song itself isn't available commercially -- yet. Dustin Hoffman contributes the closing monologue, making for a welcome surprise ending. McCartney Fact: Dustin Hoffman challenged Paul McCartney to create a song on the spot while dining together. In minutes, McCartney crafted "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" for the Band on the Run album.
In 1983, McCartney originally released the BAFTA winner "Rupert and the Frog Song." I wasn't familiar with the books, but I understand Rupert is the central character in a successful line of books over in England. This was my second favorite short on the DVD. Rupert, voiced by Paul, is immediately likeable. It's probably the character design, but whatever it is about Rupert, I wanted to see more of this character. It's supposed to be his story, but since the bulk of the action revolves around the frog ritual, Rupert ends up being a bystander for most of it. Not until Rupert's brave action at the end does he actually do anything except get lost. The frog ritual was well directed and drew me in. It reminded me a lot of the "Ballerina Hippo" entry in Fantasia and Esther Williams films with its movement and bombast. I loved its song, too. "We All Stand Together" was composed by McCartney and produced by Beatles producer George Martin. Fans of the song will have a hard time locating it outside of the DVD. For those interested, it's available on the 1998 re-release of McCartney's album Pipes of Peace as one of the import CD's exclusive bonus tracks. It's also included on the locatable but pricey Oobu Joobu -- Ecology CD. Vinyl purists can find this song on a vinyl picture disk released exclusively in England entitled All the Best. (Special thanks to Chris Carter for his assistance.)
Even the menus are well-crafted. Paul McCartney, through voice over, walks the viewer through the menu and explains each feature; a perfect addition for children navigating this DVD.
Special features include storyboards for all three productions, line tests, and making of featurettes for "Tuesday" and "Tropical Island Hum," and an interview with the man himself, Paul McCartney. The featurette on "Tropical Island Hum" makes a nice addition to the brief overview shown on Paul McCartney: In the World Tonight. The process the animation house that produced all three shorts displays a real passion for the art of animation and the desire to tell a good story.
It seems to me director Geoff Dunbar has only begun to make his way into the world of animation. I expect great things and hope to see much more. I hope he and Paul McCartney continue to collaborate, as they do good stuff.
Good running time for this DVD, too. At 43 minutes, the DVD is the perfect length for children, especially since all of them I encounter have some form of ADD.
My one and only criticism is that some of the text on "Tuesday" bleeds past the borders of the television. Despite missing the first couple of letters of each line, the text is still legible and understandable.
Sometimes, when Paul McCartney puts his mind to something, we get Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection. The man has a love for animation and it shows.
Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection is free to go! This judge hopes to see the parties responsible in his courtroom again. Ram on, lads.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 43 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* An Interview with Paul McCartney
* Storyboards and Line Tests
* Making of "Tuesday" and "Tropical Island Hum"
* IMDb: Tuesday
* IMDb: Rupert and the Frog Song
* Paul McCartney Official Site