A Town Called Panic is to the likes of Coraline what South Park was to Disney; a return to crude (but by no means inferior) animation that just goes to show how little photorealism and high-resolution renderings actually matter. While there is, of course, something to be said for Pixar’s innovation and consistent bar-raising, there is something truly liberating about Panic’s retro-shoddiness.
Not that I am belittling Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s animation – it is consistently compelling – but any encounter with the duo’s Cravendale adverts can not quite prepare you for 78 minutes of unadulterated crazy. A Town Called Panic, where horses figure skate and everyone showers with their clothes on, is just as impressive as any Caterpillar Room or dragon-bothered Viking settlement.
Following their various Cravendale adventures in a time-travelling fridge and their other, even zanier escapades on European television, Panic opens with Cowboy, Indian and Horse fighting for the shower. While I don’t have the vocabulary to relate the anti-narrative plot synopsis, Panic will take you on a Monty Python-esque quest through farmland, tundra, ocean and the Earth’s core itself. Along the way our misadventurous heroes will be burgled, catapulted from a giant mechanical penguin and shot at by fish-people.
Providing you have the patience and mindframe to – for want of a better phrase – go with it, A Town Called Panic promises the most insanity, originality and bricks you will see all year. Tackled analytically, however, Panic falls at almost every hurdle. There is no character development, internal logic or closure to be seen. That said, A Town Called Panic has no dramatic aspersions (something that is evident from the frenetic trailer) – with the result that the usual rules simply do not, or cannot, apply.
Mad, scatterbrain and utterly brilliant, A Town Called Panic is a cheese-dream that might have Dom Cobb reaching for the “Non, je ne regrette rien” but had me seduced from beginning to end.
In addition to the theatrical trailer, A Town Called Panic also comes boasting an interview with directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar. Their discussions take in everything from the origins of their three leads (which are suitably random), their technique for retaining spontaneity in one of filmmaking’s most laborious and time consuming mediums and their numerous inspirations – which unsurprisingly include Terry Gilliam, Merry Melodies and the truly incomparable Gary Larson. While basic, it is difficult to imagine the usual home-video trimmings adorning this delightfully unconventional piece of cinema.