Wednesday, 23 December 2020

The Wishmas Tree (2020) - Movie Review

Time to make up for the relative lack of anthro representation of late by looking at this Aussie effort that already seems to be spawning a franchise around it. And the franchise idea itself isn’t half-bad, framed around the locale of Sanctuary City, a place where all manner of animals live in harmony and that allows for a certain flexibility in the possible stories to tell. To start things off, we have a kid-friendly adventure flick about the precocious Kerry the Ring-Tailed Possum (Miranda Tapsell), who sets out beyond the boundaries of Sanctuary City to stop a potential ecological disaster… that she herself inadvertently set in motion.

The animation takes a bit of getting used to but works where it counts. The character designs are very TV-quality, and there’s more than a few budget-cut moments of sudden quality dip, but between the background detail work, the lighting effects, not to mention Ack Kinmonth’s epic orchestrations building off of the visuals, it makes for a visually interesting effort. Hell, even the character designs become a non-issue fairly quickly and just become part of the larger aesthetic.

Said aesthetic has a healthy amount of mythos built into it, starting with a 2-D depiction of the origins of the City and of the titular Wishmas Tree, around which there is a yearly tradition where all the animals in the City make wishes using the seeds from the tree. It’s from there that the main plot kicks in, with Kerry wishing to see the Wild beyond the city limits, and ending up making a White Wishmas. It’s the kind of thing I can easily see kids (and even adults) wanting to have around here, mixed with some ecological logistics about how that might be a cool idea in theory, but probably hazardous in practice, with the decay of the ecosystem letting in the forces of Extinction, a malevolent force that looks like the cousin of the Rhino from James And The Giant Peach.

As we see Kerry and frill-necked mystic Yarra (Ross Noble in a rather unexpected turn) venture into the wilderness to try and save their home, the way that the inevitable environmentalism comes into play is actually well thought-out for this kind of feature. It plays around with certain isolationist mindsets to do with Australia and eco-conservation that set the foundation for films like Blinky Bill: The Movie, and while it forging a message of how we need to work together to save ourselves is rather expected, it also dips into how we need to keep everyone safe, not just those in our own bubbles. It’s a nice flip on these sorts of animal adventures, where them running into more hostile creatures doesn’t end up going against the fact that they’re trying to save these creatures, and it adds to the prevailing attitude that it’ll be the next generation that fixes the current generation’s messes. The more things change, eh?

I can’t say this is particularly special, but as an intersection of things that don’t usually work out all that well on their own (Animated Aussie films, independent animation, talking animals), it’s much better than I was expecting going into it. I can definitely see merit in this being the springboard for a larger franchise, and if it can maintain this kind of pedigree, I’ll likely be returning to this again in the future. Like, later on today, even.

No comments:

Post a Comment