A Town Called Panic
Plastic playthings spring to life in anarchic anti-Toy Story
A Town Called Panic
Directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
Cast: Stéphane Aubier, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Patar
“H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Teletubbies,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Yo Gabba Gabba!” Every few years a self-described “kids” show pops up that holds a peculiar, hypnotic appeal for adults—particularly those under the inhaled influence of certain recreational substances. The latest series to add its name to this surrealist list is the oddball Belgian-born creation known as “A Town Called Panic” (or “Panique au village” in its native tongue).
“A Town Called Panic” first appeared as a kids’ show in various French-speaking nations circa 2000. It went on to became a major cult sensation throughout Europe. In America, it has been whispered about in Internet chat rooms and occasionally glimpsed on sites like Atom.com. A clip from “A Town Called Panic” materialized as a highlight of this year’s Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. Now the “Panic” phenomenon comes into full bloom with an official feature film treatment (complete with subtitles and everything).
The eponymous animated feature sticks with the same basic premise as the series. Our main characters are Cowboy (voiced by writer-director Stéphane Aubier), Indian (Bruce Ellison) and Horse (co-
Not to worry. A Town Called Panic isn’t educational in any conventional way. It has far more in common with the stream-
In an era of $200 million computer-animated masterpieces, there’s something both refreshing and charming about A Town Called Panic’s junky stop-motion animation. These aren’t like the children’s playthings brought to seamless CGI life in Toy Story. They’re stiff, crudely animated lumps of plastic that wobble from one side of the screen to the other. And yet, A Town Called Panic bursts with all the color and invention of a Michel Gondry music video.
Until now, “A Town Called Panic” has existed as a frenetic fusillade of five-minute shorts. Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to keep up the show’s manic pace when stretched to 70 minutes or so. But A Town Called Panic does an admirable job of keeping jokes, slapstick action and narrative left turns flying at the audience as quickly as possible. This proudly nonsensical loony toon won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who dig it will walk away craving more of the madcap animated action.