Studio: Warner Bros.
HD-30/DVD-9 Double-Sided Combo Disc
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kpbs)
Film Length: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
1080i/480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
The Film - **** out of *****
2006 was filled with computer generated animated films of varying degrees of quality and appeal. With so many to choose from it might be no surprise that the animation landscape was littered with failures and underperformers. Inevitable, I suppose, when you couple the wearing off of ‘the novelty factor’ with the proliferation of studio’s wanting to tap into the voluminous resource of parental cash that millions of Mums and Dads are happy to part with to have their children and selves entertained.
Despite the cup running over, 2006 saw some genuinely good animated films, from the likeable "Over The Hedge", the technically brilliant and fun "Cars" to the genuinely original "Monster House".
Enter Happy Feet. Director George Miller, of "Babe" and "Babe: Pig in the City" fame, spent a number of years developing, co-writing and directing this simple tale of a little penguin finding the courage to be different.
In short, "Happy Feet" is about a little penguin called Mumble, voiced by Elijah Wood, born into the world of the Emperor Penguins, where the heart-song, the song inside each penguin that they use to find true love, is the pride and pinnacle of their life in the wintry white world of Antarctica.
Unfortunately, Mumble cannot sing. His parents, Memphis & Norma Jean (voiced by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman as Elvis and Marylin Monroe throwbacks) are a little distraught, Memphis especially. While Mumble cannot sing, his heart is filled with a desire to tap-dance. Misunderstood and maligned, his peculiar foot tapping expressions of the heart are considered unacceptable and are even blamed for the recent shortage of fish.
Feeling alone, he ventures out to find the real reason the fish are in short supply and to find himself.
Leaving behind his good friend Gloria, voiced by Brittany Murphy, he discovers new friends that join him on his journey. His new found friends, a group of Hispanic accented Adelie penguins that enjoy quick banter and the ladies, are led by the rambunctious Ramon, voiced by Robin Williams in fine form. They decide to help young Mumble and take him to the all-knowing prophet penguin Lovelace the Guru, also voiced by Williams, to seek answers to what happened to the missing fish.
From the sequence of songs that play like someone running through the stations on a radio, and into the beautifully handled opening song, Prince’s Kiss, "Happy Feet" is unique; a musical that rivals successful Broadway plays that adeptly blend song and action. Only with "Happy Feet", we are treated to walks down a musical nostalgia lane, kicking in tunes from the 70’s and 80’s through to today’s tastes. Composer John Powell helps sew these grand and enjoyable musical numbers together with his complimentary score. He manages to fuse song and score together to such effect that what we experience on screen really does manage to move, excite and engage us.
"Happy Feet" enjoys itself as a musical but never forgets to use and explore the power of the animated medium, providing some genuinely entertaining action sequences (most notably Mumbo and his Adelie friends slip-sliding down the ice followed by a growing avalanche). It also lays out many stunning vistas, glowing white snow plains contrasted by crisp blue skies and placid seas. So realistic and captivating are the images, the mind can be hard pressed to remember that it is not real. Even the smaller details such as that occasional and random sparkle that fresh snow has are included.
While a fun musical and sweet ‘be yourself’ story, "Happy Feet" spends the last third of its running time exploring an environmentally friendly message-driven diversion that in some ways feels a little contrived. But, to be honest, raising the global consciousness of children is a worthy aim and even though there are perhaps more subtle ways to deliver such messages, "Happy Feet" doesn’t go so far as to beat you over the head with it.
"Happy Feet" has solid performances by the voice cast, Williams and Wood in particular. Also lending their vocal talents are the likes of Hugo Weaving as Noah the Elder, Anthony LaPaglia as Boss Skua and the late Steve Irwin as a gruff elephant Seal, Trev.
Stunning animation, entertaining direction and a thoroughly enjoyable set of songs make this musical utterly entertaining, "Happy Feet" is sure to please.
The Video - ***** out of *****
This HD-DVD of Happy Feet comes with a stunning image, presented in 16:9 at 1080p High Definition in the films original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. To say that "Happy Feet" is a Visual marvel would be a tad of an understatement. The image is just incredible, a crisp, clean clarity that shows off the realistic vistas in the film with great detail. I found no evidence of distortion of any kind. Just a beautiful image. This one edges out Batman Begins as the finest image produced on HD-DVD that I have seen.
The Sound - ***** out of *****
Warner Bros. has included a number of audio options on this hybrid disc and the sound quality manages to match the picture quality, delivering an enveloping surround sound filled with crisp and clear audio. As I have found with most animated films, the center channel is put to very good use, and "Happy Feet" is no different, here the sound mix produces crystal clear dialogue and the songs are complimented by generous front and surround speaker accompaniment. Strong LFE when it’s needed (Such as the breaking ice crashing into the sea) make this an easy high mark. This musical really comes alive in the speakers, you won’t be disappointed.
The Extra’s - *** out of *****
Two New Fully Animated Sequences:
•Mumble meets a Blue Whale – A nice sequence that could have easily worked in the final cut has a more extensive use of Steve Irwin as an albatros, the animal he originally was cast to voice. This is perhaps the nicest of the special features if for no other reason than the warm goodbye it allows for the always active and energetic Steve Irwin who died last year.
•A Happy Feet Moment – A very brief exploration in penguin child abuse. Seriously, though, it’s good for a chuckle.
Both are presented in 1080p/VC-1. All other special features are 1080i/480p/i/MPEG-2
A Private Dance Lesson with Savion Glover
•Dance like a penguin – Strictly for the kids, these swift and energetic few minutes allows dancer Savion Glover to share the very basics of moving your feet. Mumble makes an appearance too in a less than perfect merging of live action and animation. I think Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin, taking over for Jerry Mouse dancing with Gene Kelly (from Anchor’s Aweigh) had a tad more flair!
Two Music Videos
•Gia’s Hit Me Up – What starts out as a reasonably catchy little tune quickly descends into repetitive droning. The Non-anamorphic image doesn’t help.
•Prince’s The Song of the Heart – The video for this enjoyable, if safe, Prince song is a little lazy, simply cutting together different scenes from the film doesn’t exactly inspire re-watching. Also disappointingly non-anamorphic.
Theatrical Trailer– While I am reminded of why I thought this film was nothing more than a collection of song and dance routines by this trailer, as a stand-alone clip it’s actually pretty funny.
Classic Cartoon: I Love to Singa- The inclusion of this classic cartoon from 1936 is a good reminder of just how imaginative and entertaining cartoons have been for years, even before the advent of technological marvels. And I finally found out where South Park’s Cartman’s strange musical outburst (from the pilot episode) originated.
While Happy Feet as a film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it thoroughly entertaining. Well directed, innovative sequences and a solid cast and exemplary soundtrack of songs and score combine to deliver a high quality animated film.
Incredible picture and sound quality, and I do mean incredible combine to make this an excellent reason to add this to your collection.
This is a hybrid DVD, for an excellent review of the standard DVD, please visit Ken McAlinden's review here: http://www.hometheat....d.php?t=253654
Overall Score - ****1/2 out of ***** Highly Recommended.