It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you hear how great a film is, but be sure to avoid any plot descriptions, trailers and stills before watching it and are ultimately greeted by something you’ve never seen before or could have imagined. Such was the case for me before watching A Town Called Panic, a stop motion animated feature making use of 1,500 plastic toy figures to tell the story of a talking horse (aptly named Horse) and his two friends and roommates Cowboy and Indian (who also just happen to be a plastic cowboy and Indian respectively). It is one of the most bizarrely entertaining movies I have ever had the pleasure of watching, to the point just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.
Based on the Belgian animated TV series (which I’ve never seen), A Town Called Panic is directed by StÃ©phane Aubier and Vincent Patar whom have taken upwards of 200 “clones” per character in order to bring a world of stationary plastic to life. With A Town Called Panic it’s a mixture of marvel, bewilderment and laughter as the absurd story and seemingly rough animation are nothing you would watch separately, but together they deliver a comedic adventure you can’t take your eyes off of.
The film begins on Horse’s birthday and while Postman, Policeman, Steven the farmer and everyone else in town has remembered, Horse’s roommates Cowboy and Indian have completely forgotten. Their solution is to trick him into leaving the house affording them the time necessary to make a homemade barbecue. Unfortunately a mishap results in them ordering 50 million bricks as opposed to the 50 necessary. This sets off a chain of events destroying Horse’s house, sending the trio to the center of the Earth and off on an adventure that culminates in a magical underwater land inhabited by beings that steal walls and throw swordfish as weapons.
As ridiculous as it sounds it is wholly satisfying. Using similar techniques found in Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken” and getting as occasionally absurd as Comedy Central’s “South Park” (without the racism, language and/or political and pop culture references), A Town Called Panic is an acid trip of insanity.
Why are scientist trucking around a frozen tundra in a giant snowball-throwing robot penguin? Who knows and who cares? If you are asking yourself those kinds of questions by that point in the film you should probably check out, but at 74 minutes long this film doesn’t give you much time to second guess your investment.
Just sit back and give it a chance. A Town Called Panic, like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, is a breath of fresh air in a genre that has grown stagnant with CG-animated Pixar knockoffs that rarely hit the mark anymore. File this one away with Fantastic Fox and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and you have one hell of a triple-feature.