Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts (1991)
Image Entertainment

In the wake of the recently released ’Chicken Run’, Image Entertainment is bringing us the compilation, ’Creature Comforts’ which also features work by Nick Park and Peter Lord, the creators of ’Chicken Run’ and ’Wallace & Grommit.’ The DVD features four animated shorts, all of which are done using claymation. All four features are presented by Aardman Animations, but only the titular feature offers the work of both Park and Lord. ’Creature Comforts’ offers a mixed-bad of animation, and the easiest way to describe it is to look at each piece individually.

’Creature Comforts’ is a five-and-a-half minute short which one the Oscar for best animated short in 1990. In this feature, Park and Lord have taken audio sound-bytes from real-life children and rest-home residents and mixed their voices with animated zoo animals. The result of this odd combination is a funny and charming film in which the animals appear to be describing zoo life. The animation may not be as refined as that seen in ’Chicken Run’, but these animals posess a lot more personality than those chickens and there is always something funny happening in the background. This piece is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is clear, but does show some subtle grain and some spots on the source print. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. Although it’s the shortest, ’Creature Comforts’ is definitely the best offering on the DVD.

Next up, we have ’Wat’s Pig’, written and directed by Peter Lord. This 11-minute short tells the story of royal twins seperated at birth. One grows up to be king, while the other lives on a farm with his beloved pig. Lord makes clever use of split-screen to show the seperate, yet parallel lives of both men. The two are thrown together when war is declared in the kingdom. ’Wat’s Pig’ has some cute moments and displays some great animation, but it drags a bit in the middle. ’Wat’s Pig’ is displayed in a letterbox format (1.66:1) and is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very clear, showing little grain and only slight artifacting. The colors on ’Wat’s Pig’ look especially nice. The audio is a Dolby 2-channel surround, which brings to life the music and sound effects of the piece, as there is hardly any dialogue.

While parents may want to get ’Creature Comforts’ for the little ones, steer clear of the third short, Boris Kossmehl’s ’Not Without My Handbag’. This Tim Burtonesque short is by far one of the most bizarre, disturbing and downright unsettling things I’ve ever seen. (And that’s saying a lot). A woman fails to make the payments on her washing machine, and is taken to hell by the devil. But, realizing that she’s forgotten her purse, she rises as an eyeless zombie to retrieve it. This short isn’t particularly humorous or entertaining, it’s just weird. Still, the colors are very nice and it does contain a great line, ’Walking the Earth as a living corpse is probably in questionable taste.’ ’Not Without My Handbag’ is presented full-frame. The image is razor sharp with no noise or grain to speak of. The Dolby 2-channel surround is very impressive here and the rear-speakers are put to good use. Let me say it again: not for the kids!

The final offering is another Oscar nominated short from Peter Lord entitled ’Adam’. This features a hand (presumably God) creating a (very naked) man and putting him on a planet. The man spends the next six minutes walking around the planet and falling down a lot. I found this piece to be incredibly boring and when compared to the other three, technically inferior. ’Adam’ is presented full-frame and shows some slight grain, but not enough to interfere with viewing. ’Adam’ features a Dolby 2-channel soundtrack, which, for me, was the best part of ’Adam’.

With a retail price of $9.99 and a total running time of only 35 minutes, I can only recommend ’Creature Comforts’ to hardcore fans of claymation. Everyone else should definitely rent this title, as its highlights need to be experienced at least once.