Panique au Village / A Town Called Panic (2009)

a town called panic

7/10

Also known as A Town Called Panic in English. A claymation movie from 2009, which won a number of European awards. It is a feature-length version of an older French cartoon series that started in 2002. So, it is much like Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) in that regard, but a French version.

This animation is completely bonkers. Completely insane. The main characters are Horse, Indian and Cowboy, who live together in a house. The story opens with Horse’s birthday and he throws a party and gets a chocolate haystack. Then all sorts of surrealist things start happening when Cowboy and Indian make a mistake.

The animation is purposefully shocky and jerky, and echoes the Robot Chicken show. Cowboy and Indian have legs that are attached to a plastic plateau like plastic soldiers, but they are made of clay and move around. Horse too looks like a plastic toy horse. The movements are purposefully not flowy at all for a sense of absurdity. It is a funny affectation, but it does make the film a bit tiring to look at. What it also does is that it shifts the attention away from the clay characters to the voice actors.

a town called panic2

What you are in fact looking at, is grown children who move plastic toys around to tell a story, but the hands and fingers are made invisible. It is a throwback to your own childhood when you did the same. Your own childhood imagination removed the hands and made the plastic toys move, and now the power of cinema has done exactly that, but still using the same plastic toys.

As a viewer, you’re not really meant to get very invested in the characters. They are too absurd for that. The story too is a sequence of crazy stuff, one thing after the other. Halfway through the film, the story expands into a proper plot, and an absurd one at that, of course. But the absurdity is necessary here to keep your interest.

It’s all very funny and inventive, but you quickly tire of the animated style because there is no emotional investment. What happens on the screen is so removed from the real world that you’re looking at a performance by the artists as if at a road show, and not at characters. Therefore, the film feels long even though the runtime is only 75 minutes. The claymation films of Aardman suffer from the same effect, especially if there is no talk like in Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015). In Panique au Village, there is spoken language, but still a format of 20 minutes would have been much better than a full feature.

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