By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire December 15, 2009 at 5:13AM
Fantastic Fest favorite Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar's "A Town Called Panic" (French Title: "Panique au village") begins a two week run at NYC's Film Forum tomorrow. The flick, which won an audience award at Fantastic Fest, is also distinguished as being the first full-length stop-motion animation to screen at Cannes. Devin Faraci on the film site CHUD sums up the film, "'A Town Called Panic' follows the adventures of three friends who live together: the level headed, cool as a cucumber Horse, and two best buddies Cowboy and Indian, who are mischievous knuckleheads whose best intentions are always causing major problems for everyone in town, including their neighbor the always-shouting Stephen, his wife Nadine, their animals (who attend music school), Policeman, Postman, and Miss Longray, the beautiful redheaded horse who teaches music and who has won Horse's heart." He continues, "There's no point in trying to get across to you the wonderful madness of 'A Town Called Panic.' It has to be seen to be believed, especially because the puppetoon style is so distinctive, low tech and incredible."
Variety's Leslie Felperin contextualizes the film, "Belgian and French auds will be most familiar with the pic's characters and world via a series of five-minute films originally broadcast on Canal Plus, although the show has been dubbed into Brit-accented English by 'Wallace and Gromit' producer Aardman and shown offshore on cable stations (such as Nicktoons in the U.S.) and further disseminated through the Internet. Offering a distinctive blend of whimsy, slapstick violence and manic energy, the 'Town Called Panic' universe pivots round a deliberately random-looking collection of small figurines -- cowboys and Indians rub shoulders with farmers and policemen -- that look like the kind of cheap toys kids buy with their allowance. (The plastic and resin-based figurines look mass-manufactured but are actually made for the show and pic itself.)"
Andrew Schenker, in Slant Magazine, says the "gut-buster uses a heroic load of handcrafted plastic figurines and a painstaking stop-motion filming process to fill its densely packed 75 minutes with enough gags and absurdo-comic set pieces for a Marx brothers marathon. Actually, in its mile-a-minute pacing and its continual sense of inventiveness, Panic calls to mind certain classic Warner Bros. cartoons, while in its manic artisanal quality which focuses on the manipulation of stock toy-like figures (a horse, a cowboy, a stereotypical Indian chief with his arm raised in a perpetual salute), it unfolds like the fevered playtime imaginings of an over-bright and dangerously unbalanced child." The Hollywood Reporter's Peter Brunette offers, "There's really very little to say about this film beyond that it's absolutely brilliant...The filmmakers have also solved the usual problem of full-length animation by producing an insane level of continuous action and a constant change of fascinating locales. Even if you don't normally like animation, you should give this film a look."
In his analysis of the Oscar's tough choices for the animated feature nominees, Film School Rejects' Landon Palmer says of "A Town Called Panic," an amazing romp of a film whose deliberately primitive means of stop-motion animation are essential to its incredible comic effect. If this was a year that didn’t already contain several impressive stop-motion animated films, 'A Town called Panic' would probably stand out to the degree that it wouldn’t exist as such a dark horse, but it’d be in good faith if the Academy gave this little gem some much-needed exposure."
The Wall Street Journal blog features an interview with directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar.