Pioneer Entertainment presents
"W...What's this??" —Toriyasu
"Don't fret! We're just warping!" —Hoi Hoi
Stars: Meeko, Toriyasu, Burburina
Other Stars: Doh Doh, Papadoll, Sandada
Director: Takashi Nakamura
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (voluntarily rated "Ages 3 Up")
Run Time: 01h:15m:00s
Release Date: 2000-03-07
DVD ReviewIn the past few years, I've found myself turned off by most animated children's entertainment. Most films and TV series seemed far too focused with merchandising and political correctness to actually be any good. Creativity and imagination seemed to go out the window in favor of history-warping stories with hit soundtracks. While there are exceptions to the rule, they seem to be in the minority. In fact, I remember when things got so bad that old Bugs Bunny cartoons were being censored. Thankfully, the Japanese are not quite to that point just yet and Catnapped! is a wonderful breath of fresh air from Western animation.
In Catnapped!, Toriyasu and his little sister Meeko have lost their dog, Papadoll. Toriyasu thinks the dog ran away, but Meeko observes that his chain was cut, meaning he was stolen. While Toriyasu seems not to care, Meeko observes some strange cats hanging around the neighborhood one day. That evening, these weird, talking cats show up in Toriyasu's room and tell him that they know where Papadoll is. The cats insist that Toriyasu must come with them in order to get back Papadoll. Reluctantly, Meeko and Toriyasu travel with the cats to their world; the land of Banipal Witt!
Once in Banipal Witt, Meeko and Toriyasu turn into cats and discover that Papadoll is terrorizing the land. Apparently, exposure to Banipal's sun has turned Papadoll into a crazed, huge, flying dog with a multi-color tongue. That's not all, though. Papadoll is under the control of the evil Princess Burburina and her love slave, Doh Doh. Burburina can turn people into balloons with a single touch and Doh Doh has the Sorcerer's Glove! Keeping up with all this?
If the film sounds a little odd, believe me, it is. I knew things would get a little wild when the talking cats travelled to Banipal Witt in a psychedelic, cat-shaped blimp, but things got even wilder. Visually, Catnapped! is an amazing, fun ride of fantasy. Banipal Witt is a surreal landscape that rests atop a giant sleeping cat. The sun is a giant firework, and the moon is a flying clockwork display piloted by a mouse. Almost every moment has some sort of optic treat in the form of bizarre characters or settings. The film's eccentric visuals are complimented by an equally strange plot. Rather than just a normal "stop the bad guy" storyline, the presence of such odd villains and unusual circumstances is a real treat. While Catnapped! has its slower moments, most of the film is filled with kinetic artistry that will most likely hypnotize most viewers of any age.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Catnapped's image is full frame and very good for animation, although the bright, vivid colors of most Japanese anime are rather muted here. The film seems a touch bit washed out, and there are no solid blacks. Considering the film is only 5 years old, this is a little strange. Overall, the film looks much like the kind of basic cel animation you might see on Saturday morning television. These image flaws seem to be source related, as there are no signs of compression problems or pixelization at all. I'd like to see this film with a slight restoration giving it the same sheen as a lot of modern anime. The film's English subtitle track is a very eye-friendly yellow with black bordering.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
|DS 2.0||English, Japanese||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Both Japanese and English versions sport a dynamic 2.0 Surround audio track. The track has a good deal of front channel action both in sound effects and musical score. It's very immersive and high quality. Surround channels do get used a bit for some ambient effects and background sounds, but not very heavily. Japanese and English dialogue is extremely well balanced with the on-screen action and never drowned by front channels. Though I prefer watching films in their original language with subtitles, the English dub isn't as bad as some. The names of the characters are still accurate to the Japanese ones, instead of being altered. The big difference between the two tracks is the translation. The written dialogue in the subtitle track is more expressive, whereas the English dub is downgraded a bit to obviously appeal to smaller kids. Some of the more mild language in the subtitle track (things like "damn" and "what the hell") is gone in the English version.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
- Character Profiles
- Slide Show
- Pioneer Kids Catalog
A character profile section gives a brief description of the main players along with their picture. The section seems suited to helping smaller kids make sense of the plot.
The slide show feature is simply a remote-driven series of screen shots from the film.
There is a mini-catalog of Pioneer children's releases, but unfortunately there are no trailers, just descriptions of the material. This catalog can be seen by clicking on the Pioneer logo from the main menu.
The packaging is very colorful and eye-catching, but in a funny, minor mistake the keepcase spine says "VHS" under the DVD logo. The keepcase insert has a nice depiction of Princess Burburina's castle along with a listing of the chapter stops.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsIt's doubtful that children younger than, say, 8 will grasp many of the film's subtleties. While Catnapped! is skillfully crafted to appeal to children, it has a certain level of charm that will reach older people as well. The extremely low quantity of any mild-violence should go over well with parents. Most "violence" is very cartoonish and goofy and the film contains only the implied death of one character, which is necessary to the story. Another wonderful aspect of the film is the fact that its surreal story and visuals are eventually explained in detail through flashbacks. Catnapped! marks another in the long string of excellent animated features from out of Japan that can appeal to a broad age group. To be completely honest, after having witness the mastery of Japanese features like Kiki's Delivery Service, Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland, My Neighbor Totoro, and now Catnapped!, I look at some conventional U.S. animation and can't help but be in awe at the lack of integrity and creativity. Give yourself a treat outside the norm and try out Catnapped!. Highly recommended.
Dan Lopez 2000-06-26