Creature Comforts: Series 2 Part 1 DVD Review
PictureThe picture is mostly excellent. Now, when I say excellent I mean really good. I can't really understand how, as I have seen movies that have much higher budgets that have had worse picture qualities than Creature Comforts. I can only assume that the still cameras (they didn't look like cheap cameras) and frame by frame process removes a lot of the possibility of getting dirt or scratches. After all, it's not like the camera is being driven along a dirty motorway at 70mph, or braving the whiles of the Sahara. The fact remains that Creature Comforts has a near reference quality picture that is full of vibrancy and colour. Overall detail is sharp, especially in one scene where trapped flies are shown in a spider web spun in the corner of a shed window, or where two snails are talking on the cobbles of a garden path. You can really appreciate the enormous effort that has gone into scene design, just to make that little difference, to add that extra air of quality. I did notice some artifacting that was almost entirely removed by my TV's processing. Either this artifacting was introduced by the TV to start with or is so minor to be easily removed by a half way decent digital noise removal setting. There were also some minor some edge enhancements but this was only apparent in some scenes and certainly not bad enough to spoil viewing.
SoundThe whole core of Creature Comforts is based on recorded sound and, since the “actors” are animated rather than real people, so it is crucial that every nuance is carried across to give maximum detail, which it has. A wonderful scene with two pigs has a mobile phone start ringing. Not only is the ring usefully irritating, but that weird pipping distortion (the one you sometimes hear if a mobile is near a radio or PC speakers when it is about to ring) has been added by the sound recorder, as if picked up by the interviewer, for added authenticity. As far as I know the distortion actually was recorded, so good is the effect. Anyway, back to the nitty gritty of sound quality: rears are used but not in any truly effective manner as this is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Bass too is lacking, but this is a product of the disc's content and so cannot be held against Creature Comforts. What is good is the overall clarity of sound. Breaths, wheezes, pneumatic jackhammers (or windy picks if you will?) and breadsticks noisily eaten are all reproduced with crystal detail. If there is one drawback it's that there is a little bit too much emphasis on the treble, but this is very minor indeed.
ExtrasEyeballs and Fishlips The Making Of Creature Comforts 2 is probably the very best making of documentary I have seen. Not because it is full of information (which it is) but because, like the series, the documentary is unashamedly British. This has quite a lot to do with the studio from which Aardman works. No palace of black marble, chrome and wall to wall cheap plasmas, here. No, here we have a sombre “Unit 14” badged industrial estate unit with a few porta-cabins bolted onto the back. One employee even states that the conditions are so cramped that the entire Aardman workforce has Cabin-fever. Ramshackle desks overflowing with papers, official looking files staked rakishly on top of filing cabinets, loose wires trailing along walls, it all makes for a remarkably home grown feel. It's just so refreshing to see an honest, down to earth workplace that, for all the Heath Robinson look, is so full of humanity and personality. Eyeballs and Fishlips really does reflect that very well; At one point there is someone vaguely mashing her keyboard in a (bad) attempt to look busy only for the cameraman to say “...I am filming you know?” in an effort to get things back on track. Or that someone has to carry the plastercene models down some stairs before they can be used in the various micro studios. “Have you ever dropped one of those?” Asks the cameraman, “No,” replies the woman carefully looking at the model, trying to avoid the questioner whilst navigating a 90° stairway landing “but someone once dropped one of the chickens from Chicken Run and accidentally drop kicked it across the room. That caused a lot of trouble...”
I must say that the whole Aardman process is analysed very well indeed by examining, from inception to fruition, the wrestler sketch - one of the better ones. At each stage the documentary branches out and looks at the processes involved from speech timing to “LAV” performances. Every angle is observed, every stage explored and after you have finished watching you get an overwhelming sense of pride and astonishment: pride that this is a British creation and astonishment at the volume of work involved in creating the smallest of details.
The People Behind The Puppets is another invigorating extra that massively adds to the appeal of the series. Here you see some of the more prominent characters being interviewed and rather strangely, they aren't much different to their animated counterparts. I mean, clearly they look different, but the actions, their mannerisms, all seem intact.
As a Geordie I found the mouse character very interesting. At first I was embarrassed then realised there was nothing to be embarrassed about! This was an honest bloke who was very eager to spill his story to the interviewer. The in show character reflects this attitude, albeit with mild sarcasm, beautifully. Gold medal has to go to the two old women who are such glorious characters themselves and so unaware of their effect on others. It seems that no matter what the interviewer asks they go off on a tangent. “How do unfamiliar places affect you?” asks the interviewer. After much confusion one of the ladies cryptically replies “Emptying a suitcase?”
Creating Creature Comforts 2 The Rehearsals is less effective. This is basically a comparison between the animated product and some live action rehearsals conducted by the production staff. There are some interesting parallels, but this extra is not in the same league as the first two.
One rather unwelcome extra is an unskipable piracy video at the beginning of the disc.
VerdictCreature Comforts is a terrific series that hits the comedic mark more often than not. The short scenes mean that if a sketch doesn't satisfy, then another that will won't be long in coming. Speaking of which I hope that part 2 of creature comforts is long in coming either...
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