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Miramax Pictures presents
Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection (1984-2000)

Win or lose, sink or swim,
One thing is certain, we'll never give in,
Side by side, hand in hand,
We all stand together.

- Frog Chorus (from the song We All Stand Together)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: April 12, 2004

Stars: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Dustin Hoffman, Windsor Davies, June Whitfield, Amanda Massa, Robert Stanga, voices
Director: Geoff Dunbar

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:42m:37s
Release Date: April 13, 2004
UPC: 786936239317
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+AA- B+

DVD Review

How appropriate is it that Paul McCartney's first high profile project following the birth of his fifth child, Beatrice (and first with wife Heather Mills McCartney), is a DVD compilation of the legendary musician's forays in the world of animation done in collaboration with multi-award-winning filmmaker, Geoff Dunbar.

Miramax's Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection gathers three such shorts, two of which make their American debut. Unlike some of the former Beatle's side projects that have met with hit or miss critical kudos, this unceasingly delightful trio of films effortlessly capture McCartney's trademark warmth, keen sense of wit, and knack for instantly memorable melodies in peak form.

Tropic Island Hum opens the set, a 1998 effort which starts off with a bang (literally and figuratively) as perky squirrel Wirral is "on the run" from a pack of hunters in hot pursuit. From out of nowhere comes a one-legged frog who whisks the potential capture to safety in his hot air balloon. Unlike a clueless wizard who couldn't transport a homesick farm girl back to Kansas, this bespectacled amphibian DOES know "how (the balloon) works" with the flight plan leading to a beautiful island that doubles as a sanctuary for a group of colorful animals, including a wacky monkey, a cheerful bison who serves as guardian for the inhabitants, and a husky voiced squirrel-ette named Wilhelmina.

Tuesday, McCartney-Dunbar's most recent collaboration, adapts the highly praised David Weisner illustrated storybook that chronicles a magical night in which a pond of frogs suddenly takes to the skies via their lily pads. Venturing into a nearby town, they discover the joys of making citizens do double takes, freaking out much larger animals and becoming instant fans of a "late show" television host.

Wrapping up the collection is Rupert and the Frog Song, the universally praised short that not only marked McCartney's first venture into the world of animation, but also served as the full motion debut for the beloved British comics section icon that delighted children of all ages from the 1920s until the mid-1960s. After cheerfully bidding his mum adieu, Rupert goes for a walk and stumbles upon a secret hideaway for a group of musically inclined frogs gathering for a performance (reminiscent of Brigadoon) that only takes place every 200 years.

Many years ago, I watched film critic Gene Siskel extolling the virtues of Return of the Jedi and how it left him with an afterglow that made him place his hands on his face in an ahhhhhh sense of delight. Such a feeling overtook me for the duration of The Paul McCartney Music and Animation Collection. As a lifelong fan of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and the animation field (with Snow White, Looney Tunes and vintage Charlie Brown are but three of many favorites), my approval of this package was a given before I even took off the shrink wrap, yet it exceeded my expectations. Even if your allegiance only falls into only one of these fan camps, I personally guarantee a splendid time for all. From the exquisitely drawn characters (some of which pay homage to Disney), wonderful sight gags (including a flash of an infamous music publishing company logo in the homestretch of Hum), some of McCartney's best incidental scoring (with Tuesday containing his most fully realized classical-esque offering to date) and instantly catchy songs (including the George Martin-arranged top five British single, We All Stand Together, a sing-song so appealing, don't be surprised if you start bomp-bomp-bomp-ing to yourself during a work lull or household chores in days to come), there's something for everyone.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Excepting stray bits of dust and specks here and there (not uncommon in hand-drawn animation projects), this is one fine-looking disc. Although the three features fall just short of a collective 43-minute running time, Miramax opted for a dual-layer disc, which results in a terrific picture with above-average sharpness, spot-on colors and perfectly rendered video levels. Even Rupert (the oldest short on the playlist) looks like it just came out of the film canister. Well done!

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Mostly meeting the high standards of its visuals, I must knock off a notch due to an undercranked center channel; some of the dialogue tended to be overwhelmed by the music emerging from all other areas at times (yet, it's nothing a little center channel volume boost on your part won't alleviate).Otherwise, all the 'toons possess wonderful clarity (especially during the musical offerings) with extremely pronounced bass, which really makes its presence known, particularly during Hum. Surrounds are mostly utilized to expand the widespread imagery of the front speakers, but an occasional stray isolated sound effect emerging from behind will catch you off guard, in a good way.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Paul McCartney
  2. The Making of Tropic Island Hum
  3. The Making of Tuesday
  4. Line Tests, Layout and Storyboards for Rupert and the Frog Song, Tropic Island Hum and Tuesday
Extras Review: At first glance of the package's listed running time, I must admit I winced some. But th-th-th-th-th-that's not all, folks. Over an hour of bonus goodies are to be found in the land of special features. Kicking things off is a recent interview with McCartney, and while frustratingly short (6m:58s), a lot of ground is covered including his childhood love of Rupert the Bear, his personal favorites amongst animated fare (with Bambi ranked at the top of his pops), his lament of hand-drawn artistry falling by the wayside, and memories of voice-casting for his first short (which led director Dunbar to suggest Paul take on the lead role himself).

The Making of Tropic Island Hum (12m:03s) kicks off the first of two featurettes, this one being a fast paced overview of the creative process between McCartney and Dunbar including interviews with each as well as contributing animators; up-close looks at just how much work goes into giving birth to a cartoon (line drawing, coloring, post production, etc.) and a bittersweet curtain call featuring Linda McCartney resulting in a rather animated finale.

The Making of Tuesday (11m:57s) is a more patiently rendered behind-the-scenes look in much the same league as its predecessor, but equally rewarding, particularly in the way Dunbar embraces modern technology without sacrificing the old-school look of hand-crafted contributions. In addition to consulting with Dunbar's artistic team, we also view McCartney at work in his old music-making stompin' grounds of Abbey Road (good 'ol Studio #2), as renowned, multiple award-winning arranger Jonathan Tunick conducts the score for Tuesday.

For the true animation connoisseur, a mixture of line tests, storyboards, and layouts for all three films conclude the extras. Although the supplemental material is fun and effective, I do wish that McCartney and Dunbar would have done commentaries that would have unearthed many more war stories and recollections. But with a forthcoming album in the works and a tour to conceive (not to mention diaper duty), we must... let it be.Finally, in the tradition of Disney's Platinum titles, the animated menus feature the voice of the Cute One (with a little help from Wirral) offering assistance to DVD menu challenged viewers. Rounding out the package is a handy 16-page color booklet containing behind-the-scenes photos, a Dunbar bio, song lyrics, and brief capsule profiles of all the featured characters.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Just "listen to what the man" says: A triple treat not only for Paul McCartney fans but for lovers of first class animation, The Paul McCartney Music and Animation Collection is more than deserving of shelf space alongside the likes of Mickey and Bugs. Highest recommendation.

 


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