Creature Comforts Review

Back in 1990, Nick Park set out to make what was to become his first Oscar winning animation film. Despite being a much shorter film than his adventures with Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts managed to capture Park's genius in a nutshell. Though the voices were mostly off the cuff interviews from visitors to the zoo, Park's team managed to match the voices to animals brilliantly, with a Brazilian chap who hated the cold British winter giving an unforgettable performance as the leopard. But since having had the meteoric career we now know, it was a bit of a surprise to hear that Aardman studios were working on a follow-up to Creature Comforts shrewdly called Creature Comforts.

Since Nick Park was far too busy on other projects such as Wallace and Gromit's first feature length outing, the director's hat was given to Richard Goleszowski who has managed to successfully drag the concept into the new millennium. The short format is kept intact with each episode running for just under ten minutes and sticks relatively strictly to a given theme. Though many would argue that it was impossible to improve upon the original, Aardman have at least managed to expand and extend it with a certain success; granted there are some less than great episodes but globally the humour and quirkiness of the original are retained. The animation is also noticeably better, though that rough edge, final-year-project feel did make it somewhat more endearing. As stop-animation goes, this is pretty much as good as it gets and will be a joy to watch over and over again...

The DVD:
The DVD contains the original Creature Comforts feature along with the first six episodes from the series.

The image:
I really didn't notice much wrong with it - it was filmed with widescreen in mind and we get a splendid anamorphic transfer. The vivid colours come out nicely and I didn't see much in way of artifacting. Some backgrounds and dark zones do offer a minor amount of digitalisation but generally it's a very good transfer.

The sound:
The original stereo is kept crisp and clean with no detectable issues. It's not going to give your system a workout but it's still pretty good.

The menus:
Top notch! They seem to have been made specially for the DVD and are a joy to look at though the transitions between menus can get a bit tedious. They've included the possibility of either playing each episode individually or all of them in a row. However, this comes with no subtitles at all which is a rather poor show for those with hearing difficulties.

The extras:
As I've already said, one of the extras is the original Creature Comforts which looks a little rough and is given a 4:3 transfer (which was its original aspect ratio). Aside from this, we have a very interesting and well made documentary on the making-of Creature Comforts with interviews with Aardman's heavyweights as well as the animating staff. Though it's a little more than twenty minutes long, it doesn't tend to drag and is a pretty good addition. It's transferred in widescreen but they squashed all the non-widescreen excerpts to fit the screen - a strange choice on their part!

Some of the rehearsals (4:3; 6 mins) which has the animators recording themselves acting out a sequence have been included. It's not compulsory watching but it's nice to have them, as it offers a good insight into the making of the series.

We also get a bizarre game where you have to match the setting to the character (rather easy to be honest) along with a trailer for the DVD and a trailer for Wallace and Gromit's video game. For those out there with a DVD-rom drive, there's some sound bites from the series (eight of them in both WAV and aiff) as well as three original desktop images. There's also some weblinks though that's hardly an extra...

Though it's a little strange they didn't release the entire series on one DVD, the present DVD is well put together and nicely transferred. The fans will be buying it whatever I say but for those who aren't (yet), it comes highly recommended...

8 out of 10
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