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If you would like to read all about the evolution of Aardman Animation studios as well as a full synopsis and review of Creature Comforts Volume 1 DVD, then click <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=2&c=912>here</a>.

Creature Comforts Vol.2
As expected, this second DVD of the Creature Comforts television series completes the 13 episodes that were spawned by the original Academy Award® winning short generated way back in 1990. Not only do we see more of the familiar plasticine animal animations of your regular British speaking public, but there are also a few comments to be made by other living beings not necessarily from this world.

Whilst Aardman's TV series was a great concept for expanding upon the hilarious double-takes of animals presenting their point of view of the world around them, it's fair to say that maybe this idea has run out of steam already. I can't be sure why episodes 7-13 are not quite as fascinating as the first 1-6 in Vol.1; maybe because there isn't as much variety in the dialogue for the animators to play around with or that every conceivable visual treat for these somewhat inert characters has all been done before.

I only hope that the introduction of alien characters further on in this series wasn't just some desperate attempt to liven up the show, but it does make a welcome change of pace from seeing lesser beings of this earth spout out their eternal pearls of wisdom. There is just as much inspiration involved with these animations to produce something extra-interesting to look out for, however these are mostly subtle in nature and therein lays the possible lapse of concentration from its audience. But if you don't mind listening even harder to what the animals and other-worldly beings have to say, then you will still find many amusing titbits of common-folk theories about what is happening on planet Earth today.

Creature Comforts Vol.2
Episodes
Each title should be obvious as to the subject being discussed, but I will offer an alternative connotation for those that aren't. These are The Beach, The Pet Shop, What's It All About? (aka Why Are We Here?), Being A Bird, Is Anyone Out There? (aka Is There Intelligent Life Elsewhere?), Cats Or Dogs? (aka Which Pet Is Best?) and Merry Christmas. Everyone here kind of lazes around as they answer the questions.

There aren't as many characters or situations to get excited about in this collation of episodes, however some old favourites do make a return. I'm sure that the all-time fan's favourite would be the quietly disagreeable cat and dog on the couch duo, the confused dumpster dogs with continually changing rubbish content in the bins and the almost depressing hamster who reckons he can't do anything at all. Some new ones to look out for are the street crows, the two telegraph birds exchanging bodily injury stories and another group of singing birds in a birdbath. No more of that greyhound on the track, though.

Whilst there are many new situations to experience, there are not as many stand-out points of interest.

Video
At the risk of repeating myself, the quality of this 16:9 anamorphic image is superb. Colours are nicely saturated without being overdone, the black levels and shadow detail wonderfully rendered and there is virtually no grain to contend with. The only inconsistencies are with the characters and backgrounds they inhabit with all the beautiful textures evident on the models and props being manipulated by the animators. Given the production values, there is no low-level video noise or compression artefacting.

Creature Comforts Vol.2
There are only a couple of unintentional visual mistakes that show up, such as a disappearing shadow and a subtle but noticeable change in diffused lighting; both are in the foreground that make them hard to miss. I'm sure that the producers know what I'm talking about here but I'm surprised they didn't digitally correct these, as they had already made over 1,500 such "digirections" in Chicken Run (sorry, that's my abbreviation on the term, not theirs). But then, that just makes it all a little more interesting.

Audio
At the risk of repeating myself (damn!), the solitary Dolby Digital 2.0 English mix is the most you'll ever need and thankfully the dialogue is discernible enough. Environmental sounds are kept to a minimum in the front and rears channels but are quite effective. There aren't as many loud sounds to be experienced as before, the only notable mention of such excesses is with the Dinosaur. That's it, really.

Extras
Sadly, there aren't quite as many extras to make this a budding animator's delight in, but just enough are on offer to please those who already know most of what the Creature Comforts phenomenon is about.

Favourite Bits (10 mins) involves the director and editor who discuss what they came up whilst in the creative process of selecting the audio bits to animate with. This featurette will probably bore the kids rigid with its not-so-exciting examination into the little inside jokes that were thought up, but those who appreciate the art of subtlety should find some nice titbits to chew on here.

Creature Comforts Vol.2
Next are the TV Extras; Aardman-generated promos made for various TV commercial contracts they were involved with, which is split up into four parts. ITV Channel Idents (1 min) has two bridging adverts between whatever shows are to be broadcast either side of it, which are fun but feel out of place on the DVD. National TV Awards 2003 (1 min) has creatures telling their audience about the merits of awarding those who excel in television production. PG Tips (1 min) makes absolutely no sense to anyone outside the UK as it promotes something called Freeflow Pyramids; if anyone out there can explain what the heck these are all about, then write in. Then there's the long-awaited Heat Electric Commercials (5 mins) collection that was originally interspersed throughout the previous Aardman Classics DVD reviewed earlier (click <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=2&c=93>here</a>). This is a magical cluster of ads that has all sorts of animals chatting about the wonders of their modern-day home appliances "for all your creature comforts", which I feel might have been the motivation to create this TV series later on. The only minor quibble I had of its presentation is that the 4:3 image has been reframed, if not squashed slightly, to fit the 16:9 screen.

Bringing Creature Comforts To Life (3 mins) are more of the same examples found in Vol.1 with the animators acting out various gestures and miming along with the audio selected for animation. Next is Who Said That?, another very easy and pointless game with only three questions available.  Finally there is the supposed DVD-ROM Content which does little or nothing at all to satisfy the PC-only crowd.

Creature Comforts Vol.2
Overall
For all the effort that Aardman put into producing this unique television series it's a shame that these DVDs do not reveal a lot more about what goes on behind studio doors; surely there are things yet unmentioned that could have supplemented the two discs further. The finer points of animating might have proven invaluable to those people who are just aching to get their hands dirty on some playdoh and a DV camera. But alas, it seems that these DVDs were generated for the mass-market in mind so as to avoid the potential boredom element that would send lesser-interested parties to sleep in an instant.

Regardless of the missed opportunities from the Aardman farm, these two Creature Comforts Volumes are sure to entertain those who enjoy their comedy with less boom 'n bang and simply more character interaction. However I don't know if action-junkies are actually able to sit down and just listen to what someone has to say, rather than expecting yet another typical barrage of explosions and flying cars etc. Suffice to say if you know that Creature Comforts is your cup of tea then buy this with confidence, but you might also like to wait a little while until both of these DVDs become available in the one package.


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