Creature Comforts Complete Series 2 Review
This is an edited version of a review first posted following the release of, this being a Momentum release, Part 1 of Season 2 of Creature Comforts. However, this time around, I've included what has been added to that release with Part 2 of the season, which, as it happens, isn't very much.
The opinions of the general public are now something that, for better or worse, we have gotten used to. Indeed, so commonplace are the views of Joe and Jane Public that we know expect to be able to air our views, either on television, on radio or online, including the comments on this very site. It wasn't always like this, of course, and shows like That's Life made much out of giving the public a voice on such fascinating titbits as yoghurt pots, the noise made by a Trimphone and how early is too early for Christmas.
It's That's Life that is to blame, though, for our attitude to the public - where we expect thoughtful comment from politicians and other prominent figures, the more stupid a member of the public is and the more ridiculous their thoughts, the more they endear themselves to us. Hence, such figures as Maureen from Driving School and Jade from Big Brother become stars. All that it takes, seemingly, is to not know that East Anglia, or East Angular, was part of England and a world of supermarket opens and headlines in Heat are yours.
It was such a sweet idea of Nick Park, then, to create Creature Comforts, which gave the voices of members of the public a face in the shape of Plasticine animals. Separating the human face from what they recorded through interviews gave Aardman the chance to find something within the voice and the words that it spoke with which to animate a caricature. Where the first series offered us a bored ape, a lemur and a turtle, this one has a wrinkly, baggy-skinned shar pei with a Welsh accent saying no to being asked to do an impersonation of Kate Moss, an impossibly smug cat who grins and pats his fat tummy with his telling of terrible jokes and a Geordie mouse who expresses disbelief at the notion of calling his own mother, in the manner of all of those from Newcastle, 'man!'
This DVD holds six episodes - Beast In Show, The Brood, Pet Hates, Impressions, Animals In The 'hood and Sport!, all of which are 8m57s in length. There is also an option to Play All (53m42s). Whilst it's not laugh-out-loud funny, it is amusing, most notably in the smaller moments around characters, such as the look given by a donkey to a cow when the latter suggests donkeys are almost as clever as dogs. Similarly, there's a sweet moment when two slugs entice a younger slug to sing a nursery rhyme onto to find that they then can't keep her quiet. The characterisation is superb throughout, particularly a snooty horse near the beginning that talks about only winning shows to attract more totty, whilst a second watch of Creature Comforts, now looking in the background, reveals a texting monkey, a curious crab and a frightened ladybird.
The second disc adds another six episodes, Monarchy Business, Animal Magnetism, Bed Time, Self Image, Communication and Safari Park, with the jokes beginning to fade out during Communication. Again, each episodes lasts 8m57s or thereabouts and whilst there's plenty of great moments, the overall impression is not as strong as the six episodes on the first disc. The reason behind this is simple, with these six episodes featuring less of the same characters that made the first disc so enjoyable but it's also fair to say that the subject matter doesn't offer as much comedy potential. In particular, the monarchy is dealt with fairly respectfully while Bed Time is, well, a little bit dull. However, as a whole, it is frequently wonderful with a lot of rewatch value but simply not as funny as you might expect of Aardman. Humour, like beauty, varies with one's tastes and my views are not definitive so you may laugh more than I did and, hence, may enjoy it just as much.
With so little on each disc - each disc offers a fifty-four minute main feature, with seventy-odd minutes worth of extras on one and ten on the other - there's plenty of room on the disc for a good encoding and so it comes to pass, with an average bitrate over 8Mbit/s and a beautifully clear, colourful image. The stereo soundtrack is fine but given the nature of the original interviews, there is a slight amount of background noise throughout. There are, though, no subtitles, which is frankly terrible given that, at some point in production, all of the interviews were typed up by Aardman.
However, much as this also goes for the second disc in the set, the third disc, which features the bonus episode Merry Christmas Everyone, sees something of a drop in quality, with the picture looking softer, fuzzy even, and with much less detail in the image.
Eyeballs And Fishlips (37m46s): Beginning with some of the footage from the recording sessions, this making-of follows the entire production process through story boarding, the development of the characters, the actual animation and on to a final cut. Whilst never particularly interesting, Aardman reveal their working process well and you will come away knowing how Creature Comforts was produced.
The People Behind The Puppets (8m53s): This follows up on the small amount of footage in Eyeballs And Fishlips that revealed the faces and personalities behind the voices of the characters with more of the recording sessions. Included here, and I hope that those who star in the show do not mind being described in these terms, are the slugs who are interrupted by a young slug singing Baa Baa Black Sheep, the Geordie mouse, the bats and Sherpei (my personal favourite in the show).
Trailer (1m56s): Not for Creature Comforts, no, but for Aardman Animation's most successful production, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, which is the one that, by now, you should be well familiar with.
Creating Creature Comforts 2 (20m36s): Sadly, the audio in the footage of the rehearsals is out of synch but, otherwise, this shows the staff of Aardman, I assume, acting out what will eventually be animated in character. Each rehearsal is followed by the footage from the finished scene to allow the viewer to compare one to the other.
Countryside Code Short (1m02s): Before playing it, I suspected this would have been lifted from Charley Says... and although the message is the same, it's been updated with animation by Aardman Animation. What you have is as wonderful a piece of animation as is now commonplace from them, which extols the virtues of treating the countryside as you would your own home.
There is also an option to play the six episodes by character but this only includes Muriel & Catherine, Brian & Keith, Captain Cuddlepuss & Trixie and Malcolm & Derek.
Animated Conversations (11m25s): As successful as any interview where the subject's attention is clearly elsewhere, this short feature talks to the various animators as they go about their work. There are, however, quite clearly much less interested in answering the interviewer's questions than simply getting on with modelling Plasticene.
Who Said That?: This simple game asks the player to identify which character said what in the six episodes here. It isn't very difficult and there's no reward but in that desperate search to delay the going to bed, this fills a few minutes.
Finally, there is a Kid's Corner, which includes three colouring-in sheets and four wallpaper images, as well as an advert for the Creature Comforts mobile phone game.
Merry Christmas Everybody (23m13s): This bonus episode, included on a third disc in the set, sees the Creature Comforts animals taking on the subject of Christmas with all of the familiar characters and settings now given a festive feel. Captain Cuddlepuss now sports a tinsel hat, Muriel & Catherine now hang beside an upside-down Christmas tree whilst the shar pei's wrinkles now hang below a paper crown. It's hardly a seasonal release having been included with two other discs - though it is a surprise that it's not a separate set - but it's still not a bad episode.
Heat Electric Advertisements (5m26s): And so Creature Comforts takes us back to the very beginning with the original adverts that started it all. The picture quality is obviously not as good but the technique is clearly there, with the advantage of having them here being one of completeness.
And in spite of this now collecting both sets into the one release - pity the poor buyers who paid for the two discs when they were released individually - it still represents poor value for money, with the there not being quite enough over the three discs to actually justify them. However, much the same could have, and has, been said on the original release of these discs and rightly so. The splitting of the CSI boxsets, though still daft, is more understandable but Creature Comforts? There's hardly enough of it to have to break up the sets, leaving this the release that Season 2 should have been all along. It is, though, too little too late.