Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.
There have been many production stories on animated films or projects. Some would point to Richard Williams' The Thief & the Cobbler or even embarrassing histories on infamous films like FoodFight! While many projects have found a way to be shown to the public, one ambitious animated film had a hard time catching up due to financial and distribution issues. That movie was Animal Crackers.
Loosely based on the graphic novel by Scott Christian Sava, a young married couple (voiced by John Krasinski & Emily Blunt) discover a box of animal crackers, that magically transforms them into whatever animal they eat, and must save a fading circus.
Being directed by both Sava and Disney animator Tony Bancroft, there was a lot of thought put into this concept. They took the time and played around with so many beneficial questions: How did these cookies work? Is there a cracker that would change you back into human? What happens if you eat different or broken pieces? The idea is truly fascinating as it sounds and executed in a heartfelt manner that will invest audiences over the plot itself.
As for the actual plot itself, it is your typical saving a broken-down business story where it is predictable from point A to B. Granted, the first act does start establish the characters and setting fairly but the pacing would be slow at times. There is also a subplot where one of the supporting characters tries to perfect a formula for dog biscuits, which initially felt loose from the main story. However, it gradually becomes more interesting once the main characters start taking a bite out of the crackers and gets exciting when things starts tying together during the third act.
The movie also lightens up the mood with some comedy. Admittedly, the humor is a mixed bag. There are some chuckle-worthy moments along with a couple of visual gags and one-liners. Yet, there will be an occasional awkward moment and mentioning a pop culture reference. Then again, it doesn't go that far as mainstream films nowadays and the heart still remains intact.
With a budget of $17 million, the animation is cheap but righteous at the same time. The animation was produced by Odin's Eye Animation. The character designs on the humans have a mix between realism and cartoons where the latter emphasizes more on the body shapes and expressive eyes. The animal designs look more simplified and appealing as an actual animal cracker. It is sweet how round a hamster can be or how large an elephant is. The highlight is the animal hybrid designs whenever eats broken random pieces, which is highly creative. The textures on the hair, fur and clothing are also nicely done. Not only they were playful with the concept, but also onto the character animation. The human characters move practical while the animals act more lively. The use of color is effective, especially on the locations. We travel through a dull dog biscuit factory to a vibrant and colorful circus. The only major setback for the animation is the rendering. Having a low-budget, it doesn't feel as smooth as something out of Pixar or DreamWorks. Despite that, the animation itself presented the best for what it could offer.
Upon first impression, the characters don't sound that interesting and would under one-dimensional or tropes. We start with our main characters, Owen and Zoe. Owen is the down-on-his-luck guy who struggles between his job at the dog biscuit factory and his family. But, once he learns that his uncle's circus is under trouble, he must learn to find true hapiness and the importance of family. Zoe is his loving, independent wife who would do anything to make everyone happy. They also have a cheerful daughter named McKenzie. At the circus, we have the heavyset yet supportive clown Chesterfield and the reticent human cannonball Bullet Man. At the dog factory, we have Zoe's stick-in-the-mud father Mr. Woodley, the bullying employer Brock and the quirky inventor Brinkley. And then, we have the main villain Horatio. He is the self-indulgent and fame-seeking man who was once the co-owner of the circus. Along with his motorcycling minion Mario Zucchini, he will stop at nothing till he gets what wants.
After a while, you will eventually charmed by these characters thanks to one element: the voice acting. Since John and Emily are a real-life married couple, the casting of their characters felt genuine. Every time they talk with each other, it feels natural and have excellent chemistry. Danny DeVito can be witty as both as the clown and narrator of the film. Raven's performance as Brinkley is uniquely different in comparing to her other works. Wallace Shawn, Patrick Warburton and Gilbert Gottfried are entertainingly goofy. Even Sir Ian McKellen hams up his performance by either being intimidating and...singing two songs. Who knew Gandalf could sing?
Overall, Animal Crackers is average animated film with a foreseeable story, economical animation, hit-and-miss jokes and one-note characters. But thanks to an aspiring idea, appealing executed visuals and charming voice acting, the movie remains wholehearted for families to eat up and animation fans to have a nice taste.
Scott Christian Sava on August 14, 2020:
Thank you so much for the wonderful review!