By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
A rumbling can be heard in Boston, Massachusetts where nearly every neighborhood has that spooky estate that nobody wants to visit. When a brave kitty needs to find hope, that abode may well be his only chance at achieving a new life after being abandoned. Aptly named Thunder and The House of Magic, this film shows how this cat finds the love he so deserves. Shout! Factory’s early Halloween treat will arrive on Oct 5th for fans of animation and the supernatural to enjoy.
And watching this film is like observing an episode of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Thunder (voiced by Murray Blue in the English dub) has all the spunk, charm and innocence of everyone’s favourite spirit. All he needs is to make some new friends. But when the world seems to be against him, all he can do is find a life away from the limelight.
This movie’s action is twofold: he has to deal with an antagonistic rabbit named Jack (George Babbit) with Maggie (Shanelle Gray), a sidekick mouse — both are reluctant to accept him into the household. But when the plot reveals that there is indeed a human owner about — Lawrence (Doug Stone), a retired tinkerer and magician who entertains children — just how the house got its reputation needs to be questioned when the animals of the neighborhood are more frightened of the place than the humans. Maybe some fleshing out of this point of view is needed.
As far as Lawrence is concerned, life is okay even though people down the street thinks he’s quite the recluse. When his nephew, a real estate agent Danny (Grant George), wants to sell the house and put him in an old age home, the conflict that results is one to carry this film. Thunder has to lead the charge and find a solution. Originally, this animated film was simply titled House of Magic. To add to the title only reinforces the idea of who the hero truly is.
Even though the kind grandfatherly figure finds happiness with the machines he has made and the closeness he shares with his pets, there is an element certainly missing in his life. While he loves his nephew, the feeling is not quite reciprocal. The parallels with what’s going on with Thunder and Jack the rabbit only reinforces one particular theme — don’t be a jerk.
With a movie focused on the fanciful and free, it nicely succeeds at conveying a meaningful and heartfelt tale for families to enjoy.
In the Blu-ray release, the complementary supplements explore this film’s French/Belgian origins through storyboards and interviews with producer/director Ben Stassen and art director/co-director Jérémie Degruson. Character designs are studied second and musical orchestration third. Degruson walks viewers through the process of composing music for animation. This selection is very good for giving viewers a peek into what goes on when making a computer animated film. The extra language track gives viewers a taste of what the international release was like, and to compare it to the North American release shows that the dubbing was very well done. The English translation is seemless.
As for what’s next by this studio, Wolves and Dogs: Howls for the Moon sounds like a fun film to anxiously wait for. Dog lovers should enjoy it. The formula may follow along similar themes as House of Magic, or be like past products like Fly Me to the Moon and A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures. At least their storytelling methods have improved over the years and watching one of their films is like visiting an old friend.