A Monster in Paris Review

Amazon_A Monster in Paris BR cover
Via: Shout! Factory

Finally! After only more than a year did I finally get the chance to watch this film. Long did it tease me with its development, release in Europe and sneak peeks in Canada. There’s even been a guest review featured on this blog! Today though, I can finally post my own thoughts having seen the film thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory. So without further adieu, here’s the A Monster in Paris review from the Animation Anomaly.

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The Animation

The quality of the animation seriously belies the film’s modest budget ($28 million). Given that we are used to being blinded by the dazzling efforts of both Disney and Pixar, one would expect that a film made for much (much) less would suffer from the smaller budget but thankfully that is no true. Early 20th century Paris is rendered as beautifully as any Pixar film and the love that has gone into making it look as good as it does ensures that stylistically, it is superior to much of what the large American studios put out.

Think about it. Pixar threw around $350 million at Toy Story 3 but did they honestly need to spend that much for a film that essentially takes place in the real world? If A Monster in Paris can replicate the glory of a past city so beautifully, why are Pixar and Dreamworks apparently so shackled visually?

The character animation is a bit jerky, but given the film’s comedic undertones, it is certainly understandable. Wackiness isn’t as outlandish as you might expect but it’s all in the classic Looney Tunes vibe of only noticeable when necessary.

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The Story

A Monster in Paris tells a fairly simple story; a giant flea escapes a laboratory and supposedly terrorises Paris until a singer discovers his hidden talent. While that does not sound like much, A Monster in Paris manages to weave it into the characters so much so that thei involvement seems quite natural.

There are jokes aplenty and although it’s nice to hear lots of jokes, it’s fun to see them too. Thankfully A Monster in Paris has plenty of both.

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The Characters

A Monster in Paris brims with many of the characters that you would expect the Paris of old to have. Our heroes, Emile and Raoul are truly the odd couple, differing, bickering and making up again. Their chemistry is balances by the cast of characters who they interact with. While Emile tries to woo Maude, Raoul has nothing but disdain for our heroine Lucille. These two relationships are played against the larger problem of a giant singing flea complicating their lives thanks to being wanted by the police.

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Summation

Overall, A Monster in Paris is an enjoyable film. It’s distinct European flavour give the impression that it skips to a different beat than many American films and that would be correct. It eschews the pretensions of contemporary Hollywood films in favour of pure entertainment of the kind not seen much any more.

While the voice-acting (at least for the English dub) is a bit over the top, it is more than balanced by the music and original songs (written by Julian Lennon). The DVD is also a bit bare but given that the film never received the theatrical release it deserved in the States, it’s understandable that the home video release can’t be too lavish.

Delighting in its beauty, A Monster in Paris is highly recommended.

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Only 14 Months Late, ‘A Monster in Paris’ Finally Reaches America

Amazon_A Monster in Paris BR cover
Via: Amazon.com

You may or may not be familiar with A Monster in Paris. It’s an animated film produced by Luc Besson that never seemed to make it to American shores despite a limited release in Canada (and a proper English dub too.) It was first mentioned on this blog nearly two years ago, and Irish animater Nichola Kehoe was exceedingly generous in providing a guest review when the film was released there in February 2012. Now, fourteen months after its premiere, A Monster in Paris finally gets an official US release.

The Facts

With thanks to Mike Bastoli over at Big Screen Animation, we learn that the film gets its release through the good people at Shout! Factory. They’re not being picky either, with both a 3-D Blu-Ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack and a plain ol’ vanilla DVD being your choices come April 16th.

I’m excited for this film, and have been ever since the I saw the trailer above (and even more so since Katie Shanahan,  a.k.a. Kt Shy gushed about it after a Toronto screening). It looks fantastic and Luc Besson being the experienced director that he is, the story is sure to be at least competent in concept as well as execution.

Why The Heck Did it Take 14 Months?

Unfortunately, the film did not do great business at the box office despite being a hit with the critics (isn’t that always the case). Yours truly was even admonished by Digital Domain founder Scott Ross for suggesting the film was a model to follow. (It lost ~$10 million.)

In any case, no US partner was involved in the production. This alone would have made getting into that market a lot tougher. Yes, GKids has been known to take on independent foreign films with success. Why they did not do so in this case remains unknown, but their 2012 slate was quite a full one so it’s a possibility that A Monster in Paris simply didn’t get the luck of the draw.

Without a theatrical release, DVD sales are a steep uphill battle (no pre-existing public exposure). Shout! have a bit of a knack for precisely this kind of thing though (they released, and I have, DVD boxsets for the DIC series Sonic Undergound if that’s any indication). Discussions take a while and so finally, more than 14 months after its premiere, we’ll finally be able to see A Monster in Paris in the US without having to resort to ‘special imports’ or The Pirate Bay.

The Questions This Debacle Raises

From a fan’s point of view, it’s ludicrous that we’ve had to wait so long for a film. OK so there aren’t that many of us (or maybe there are, if Google search recommendations are anything to go by), but we do have money that we’d gladly give to see the film. I’m a patient man, but plenty of others are not, and by waiting so long, the producers may well have forgone some revenue. A $10 million deficit is a large amount, but getting some money back is better than none at all, right?

Secondly, what exactly has been going on in those 14 months? I doubt that the producers have been searching for a US distributor all that time. All signs seem to indicate that none was lined up before the film’s completion and all mentions of a US release end around the time of the film’s premiere.

Lastly, how does this delay benefit the studio that produced it? Not being in the US market until now will undoubtedly have hurt their revenues, and not just in the obvious ways. Yup, CGI filmmaking technology continues to develop a rapid pace, and a film released last year (let alone more than a year ago) is going to look outdated no matter how well it was made. By releasing so long after its production, it will run the risk of appearing to those unfamiliar with it (read: the general public) as an inferior, cheaper production than it really is. All told, it hurts the studio’s chances and opportunities for creating another feature film.

How To Ensure It Doesn’t Happen Again

Europe remains a productive creator of animation (both theatrical and otherwise), but I fear that in the case of A Monster in Paris, not enough effort was put into making the film available in other parts of the world. That’s not to say they didn’t try; the film was lip-synched to the English script, not the French one, but of course that won’t bring in revenue on its own.

The US market is massive, and complicated to boot. Unfortunately it is also dominated by a few large chains; chains that are cozy with the large US studios and would far rather show a film from one of those than a foreign, independent one. GKids has so many issues with them, that they almost always avoid them; favouring independent cinemas instead.

This situation is where a service like Tugg would come in useful, allowing independent players the ability to reach mainstream audiences without the cost of a traditional blanket marketing campaign.

Until then, April can’t come soon enough.

Would you have seen A Monster in Paris in the cinema in the US? Why or why not? Let us know below!

Guest Post: A Review of A Monster in Paris

I’m very excited to present this special review by talented Irish animator Nichola Kehoe of A Monster in Paris, which she recently saw in Ireland.

It’s 1910 and unlikely duo Emile and Raoul accidentally cause the creation of a giant flea monster in a lab outside Paris. The monster escapes the lab and it is up to our two heroes to find the monster and stop it from terrorising the city. Meanwhile, the beautiful singer Lucille befriends this misunderstood creature, who she names Franceour.

Franceour is passionate about music and a gifted guitarist who soon, performing in a disguise, impresses the patrons of Lucille’s club with his talent. Lucille tries to convince Emile and Raoul of Franceour’s gentle nature so they can all work together to protect him from the cruel politician, Victor, who wants to use Franceour’s capture as a publicity stunt to make himself look like a hero for saving the city.

For a children’s film the story, A Monster in Paris is quite complex. It starts off with Emile as the main hero but that quickly changes to Raoul, then Franceour, then back again. The story starts off charming and funny, with great little one-liners, but loses some of its charm in the confusion of characters. The end of the film is a little bit of a mess from a story point of view.

That said, it is a visually stunning film. The character design, the backgrounds, the lighting and the animation are all a pleasure to behold. The design of the city of Paris is unique and interesting, with lots of colour on ground level and very little colour in the higher parts. There is so much variety in the colour palettes and lighting that the film is never ever boring to look at. The music is fun and entertaining.

While there may have been too many main characters, each character did have their own clear personality which was really enjoyable. Emile is shy but brave, whereas Raoul is seemingly over-confident and vain. Even little things like Lucille constantly changing her outfit, add to the visual charm of the film. The character animation is stunning, and really on a level with any major studio. There is a great mix of fun animation and sombre moments. When the script started to falter, it was the animation that kept the movie captivating.

Overall A Monster In Paris is charming, fun and entertaining. It is definitely worth a trip to the big screen.

 

 

The 2012 NY International Children’s Film Festival is Coming!

It’s that time of the year yet again, when New York City hosts their International Children’s Film Festival, a fantastic event that brings a decent amount of otherwise obscure animation to the big screen on American shores.

This year’s lineup is quite impressive with the US premiere of A Monster In Paris and a sneak peek at Aardman’s latest, The Pirates!Besides that, there is the usual mix of live-action and animation from around the world, including an impressive shorts schedule. As an added bonus, they will also be screening the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine!

The festival runs from the 2nd to the 25th of March on the weekends, so you really don’t have many excuses for not making it to at least something.

Tickets, showtimes and locations, can all be found on their website.

If The Poster is Overwrought, What Chance Does the Film Have?

 Via: Movie Fanatic

It doesn’t so much say adventure as it screams “THIS IS GOING TO BE A BIG BIG MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY SEE BECAUSE IT’S SET ALL AROUND THE WORLD AND WE’VE USED PHOTOSHOP FOR THIS POSTER TO PROVE HOW AWESOME IT IS”

Apologies for the screaming.

While I’m aware that this is more of a teaser poster than anything else, it does seem to be beating its breast a bit. This doesn’t concern me so much as why it’s doing so this early in the game. Most teaser posters are much more sublime and only really hint at what the audience can expect. This goes full bore and leaves relatively little to the imagination.

It’s slightly disconcerting to know that the studio feels the need to put this much information on a poster that should show a lot less (yes, the earlier ones did show a lot less, I’m aware of that). It’s a sure sign that a film is overwrought/overproduced if ever there was one.

The creepy looking characters don’t help matters either.

For putting you through that, here’s the teaser poster for Luc Besson’s upcoming feature A Monster in Paris. Much nicer don’t you think?

Via: Shockya.com

Is Luc Besson Stirring Up Some Animated Goodies?

Via: /film and Bleeding Cool

By the looks of the image above, yes he is.

By the looks of things, ‘A Monster in Paris’ may turn out to be an interesting sort of film. I don’t know about you, but the first thing that popped into my head was Gru from Despicable Me. Must be the broad shoulders.

As /film points out, there is still little if any info on the plot so for now, we’re left guessing and it is still early stages as the film isn’t scheduled to be released until late this year (2011) in France with a wider release after that. Hopefully we’ll have the full details soon. I’m curious to see how the differences between American and European CGI films have changed over the years.