Judge Clark Douglas hopes to one day be nominated to clean someone else's Academy Award.
A mouse took a stroll through a deep dark wood…
I don't know about you, but I hadn't heard a thing about The Gruffalo before it snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film. However, the brief clips and stills I saw during Oscar season looked promising, so I was looking forward to getting checking out this DVD release.
The story is very simple, following the familiar format of so many classic children's tales: repeat variations on a scene until you arrive at the punch line/moral of the story/conclusion. In this case, a mother squirrel (Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish) tells her children the story of a little mouse (James Corden, Gulliver's Travels) who wanders through the woods on a search for some acorns. Along the way, he encounters three hungry animals who would love nothing more than to turn the mouse into a snack: a fox (Tom Wilkinson, The Patriot), an owl (John Hurt, Hellboy), and a snake (Rob Brydon, The Trip).
To wriggle his way out of each situation, the mouse tells his hungry foes that he's just about to meet up with a Gruffalo—an imaginary beast of the most fearsome sort. This information scares the predators away, and allows the mouse to continue along his journey. But then…ah, that would be telling.
The Gruffalo isn't a particularly ambitious animated short nor a remarkably inventive one, but it's a perfectly charming little tale that should keep the youngsters spellbound. Older viewers will be two steps ahead of the game from the beginning (and I imagine that even the young kids will have figured out the final twist by the time it arrives), but this is a sturdy example of how to bring a children's storybook to life. The story is classical in style and stays free from the pop-culture snark that runs through so much children's entertainment these days (if this were a Dreamworks flick, you know the word "Gruffalo" would be rhymed with "Mark Ruffalo" at some point). The animation is low-budget but distinctively designed, which is more or less essential if you don't have the funds to dazzle with technical polish. The voice work from the very overqualified cast (most characters only have a small handful of lines) is exceptional, and the music by Rene Aubry has an appealingly breezy quality.
There's not much else to say about this 27-minute short (which moves at such a laid-back pace that it somehow feels even shorter), save for the fact that it probably deserved its Oscar nomination but also deserved to lose the win to The Lost Thing.
I do wish that The Gruffalo could have been paired with something else to pad the running time of the disc, but the transfer is very handsome, boasting vibrant colors and excellent detail. Audio is top-notch too, with the pleasant score and sonorous vocal work coming through with clarity. Extras include a 13-minute making-of featurette and some storyboards.
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