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Creature Comforts
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10 from N/A votes
Release: 15 Jul 1989 /

Creature Comforts

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Short
Director: Nick Park,
Synopsis: A humourous and thought provoking view of what animals in zoos might be thinking about their captivity and surroundings.

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Critic Reviews

If there's any single short out there that marked a real defining point for those claymation whiz kids down at Aardman, I'd say 'Creature Comforts' is the one. The debut piece of the now legendary Nick Park (who'd go on to create a series of captivating short films featuring a certain cheese-loving inventor and his well-read canine cohort, whose names I'm sure you don't need me to spell out for you here), it's now a widely-regarded classic in stop motion animation history, and there are some pretty good reasons for that. No other Aardman project, great as they frequently are, has managed to combine such high levels of whimsy, charm and poignancy quite as deftly as this one. The bright idea of taking real-life recordings with members of the public and aligning them with talking plasticine animals in the style of vox pop interviews (in this case, zoo animals commenting on their general living conditions, as extracted from discussions with residents of retirement homes, council housing and student halls) was so fresh, so ingenious and so delightful that the five minute running time designated here simply wasn't enough. It was a concept which begged to be extended, and it spawned a much-deserved franchise in the early 90s with TV ads for the UK's Heat Electric and, more recently, a long-awaited TV series in 2003. A franchise which in turn helped to establish Aardman's now-firm reputation for colourful, offbeat cosiness, as opposed to some of the more downbeat and sombre shorts they'd been working on for much of the 80s (many of which were good enough in their own right - Peter Lord's 'Going Equipped', which debuted alongside 'Creature Comforts' in the Channel 4 series 'Lip Synch, in particular is more than worth a look).

Compared to a lot of the output that followed it, the animation here may look a little primitive by today's standards (the depressed gorilla, for example, is quite clearly riddled with the animator's finger prints), but it's an easily forgivable fault, and doesn't detract from the visual joy that this short is swimming in from start to finish. Get a load of all those wonderful sight gags - the elderly bush-baby's gigantic magnified pupils, the unidentified birds with beaks held on by elastic bands (the antics of the non-speaking characters hovering about in the background have always been something to keep an eye out for in the 'Creature Comforts' realm), the treadmill-running terrapins, the dozens of shrieking, flailing baby rodents…all of it gold. Earning Nick Park an Oscar in 1990 for his efforts, it's endearing and comical to the bone - and yet there's also a mild tinge of sadness to it that I doubt 'Creature Comforts' would have been nearly as memorable without. For all the quirky cuteness that those clay-built critters possess, the anguish of a few of the original speakers remains persistent in their voices, and shines through in their pertaining characters quite dynamically. Most of the animals, it would seem, are perfectly contented with their lives in captivity, but there are a few who feel the sting of alienation, the homesick wild cat from Brazil being the standout personality on this one - the high range of exaggerated mannerisms that Park uses to bring him to life are unforgettable.

A lovely film and a wonderful concept, what makes 'Creature Comforts' such a striking experience is, in part, how it touches upon some of the helplessness and frustrations of having to live in a world you feel out of place in. It's also a whole lot of fun too.

Grade: A

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