Animated films have always fascinated me, whether they be ink and paint, stop motion or the newest type of animated films that use computers to create three-dimensional worlds. ANTZ ($27) is the latest film to be completely animated in the digital realm, and the first to offer a story geared more towards the tastes of adults than those of children. That being said, is it any wonder that none other than Woody Allen voices the lead character of ANTZ. Not only does Allen lend his voice to the character of Z; the animators have incorporated the physicality of Allen's screen persona into the most neurotic worker ant to ever be hatched by any colony.
The plot of ANTZ follows the disgruntled Z, from the office of his therapist, to his monotonous job, and finally to a worker ant bar where he meets the Princess Bala (voiced by Sharon Stone) who has decided to go "slumming" amongst the common ants. For Z, it is love at first sight, however he isn't likely to meet up with Bala again as just a common worker ant. That's when Z gets the idea to switch places with his best friend Weaver (Sylvester Stallone). Weaver is a solider ant whose platoon is scheduled to be marching in review past the Queen (Anne Bancroft) and more importantly Princess Bala. Unfortunately, the little review march turns out to be a farewell ceremony for the troops that are being sent off into battle with a colony of termites. The battle turns out to be a rouse designed by General Mandible (Gene Hackman) to deplete the forces loyal to the Queen, so that he will be in a position to establish a new colony with himself as the absolute ruler So, does Z survive the battle with the termites? Does her ever get reunited with the Princess? Will General Mandible create his New World order? And finally, what the heck is Insectopia? The answers to these and other miniscule questions will be answered by popping a copy of the ANTZ DVD into your player.
So, does ANTZ succeed as a computer animated film? The answer is a resounding YES! I was entertained by the story and dazzled by the look of this film. All of the characters are beautifully designed and animated. The facial expressions on the CGI characters are really well done, which these animated characters to give genuine performances. Thanks to the strong vocal talents behind the characters, the job of bringing them to life must have been a labor of love for the animators, instead of a chore. The distinctive vocal talents of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Danny Glover, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Anne Bancroft, Jennifer Lopez, John Mahoney, Grant Shaud and Paul Mazursky make every one of the characters in ANTZ truly unique. Without a doubt, the animators have captured the personalities of the performers, making their characters come alive in the digital realm. Not only are the characters beautifully animated, the entire film is rendered with a sense of awe and wonder, since it looks at the world from an ant's perspective. Congratulations to the folks at PDI and DreamWorks for creating this wondrous visual treat.
DreamWorks Home Entertainment has made ANTZ available on DVD as a Signature Selection and has added a number of bells and whistles to their spectacular 16:9 anamorphic wide screen presentation. ANTZ is presented in its proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and looks absolutely stunning. Because ANTZ is enhanced for 16:9 aspect ratio televisions, it will make an ideal test disc to demo any wide screen television you might consider purchasing. The colors on this disc are absolutely breath taking; they push the limits of the NTSC, so seeing how they look on several digital sets will give one an idea of what to expect from DTV. ANTZ features bright fully saturated colors, as well as rich earthen hues that this DVD recreates with amazing fidelity. Not only does the color amaze; the image is crystal clear and highly detailed. While ANTZ went from computer images out to film, then from film to video, there are no traces of film grain anywhere in this presentation. Compression artifacts are virtually eliminated on this disc by top of the line DVD authoring, as well as the use of dual layer technology.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack equals the video in its impressive quality. This marvelous soundtrack is everything one would expect form a recent film. Channel separation is precise with a very broad soundstage. Bass reproduction is full and very deep, plus the track has a very natural sound. Dialogue reproduces with an almost live presence that makes one think that voices are coming from within the room. The track also has a wonderful musicality that makes it very appealing. English subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.
The interactive menus have a nice design that feature music and full animation. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection features, as well as the discs supplements. The primary supplement is an interesting audio commentary featuring directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson. There is also a production featurette on the disc, but the most fascinating supplements deal with the films computer animation. There is a CGI "basics" section, plus individual sections devoted to facial expressions and overall character design. A theatrical trailer, TV spots, production notes and cast biographies/filmographies fill out the supplements.
The folks at DreamWorks have a winner on their hands. ANTZ is a delightful movie and a spectacular DVD. Recommended.
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