I love stop-motion animation! Whether it’s the classic Rankin-Bass Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), or more contemporary films like A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Chicken Run (2000), Corpse Bride (2005), and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), stop-motion has a look, feel, and personality that computer animation just can’t match.
While it may have less smoothness in how characters move and interact, stop-motion is also an amazing feat of patience on behalf of the animators. Each character must be repositioned meticulously for each frame of film, and 24 frames equal one second. That’s a lot of work to get one second of seamless film magic!
1996’s James and the Giant Peach utilizes a combination of both live-action filmmaking and stop-motion (much like Enchanted used traditional animation and live-action) in order to give the audience a magical experience that transports us from the horrible world that James lives in with his Aunts to the fantasy world of the peach and its occupants. Director Henry Selick and producer Tim Burton (yeah, that guy) delivers a stunning world that is obscure, bizarre, dark, and really fun.
The tone of the film takes a few moments to get used to. It is a dark-toned film with some nasty characters – namely James’s aunts. But once he and his insect friends meet and go on their exciting journey with the giant peach as their ride, the excitement and fantastical elements become all the more eye-popping.
Based on the classic children’s novel by Roald Dahl (I recommend all of his books, especially The BFG and The Twits), James and the Giant Peach does a pretty good job when it comes to adapting the novel’s universe into a film. While the plot gives way to spectacle at times, the overall effect of the movie is nothing short of awe.
The voice cast is great, and includes screen vets Richard Dreyfuss and Susan Sarandon, as well as Jane Leeves who played Daphne Moon on NBC’s Frasier (1993-2004). It’s a great cast that delivers some good laughs and many heartfelt moments that will entertain kids and parents alike. The songs are pretty good, too.
This Special Edition includes both a DVD and Blu-ray copy of the film (I was surprised there was no Digital Copy, a staple of most Disney releases). The one special feature exclusive to the Blu-ray is a game called, “Spike the Aunts Game,” where you get to ram a rhinoceros horn into the villainous Aunts from the film.
Both versions of the film include the following special features, which can also be found on the original DVD release:
“Good News” Music Video By Randy Newman
Still Frame Gallery
Original Theatrical Trailer
For an exciting, family-friendly good time, check out Disney’s James and the Giant Peach.
Disney’s James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition is available on Blu-ray and DVD August 3, 2010!