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“Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. Some have greatness thrust upon them…and then there are others…”

Those of you familiar with the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run will immediately recognise the style of animation used in the twenty-minute short, Harvie Krumpet. But that is perhaps where any similarity ends, for Harvey Krumpet is a very different kind of story.

Harvie Krumpet
Film
Christened Harvek Milos Krumpetzki, the young Polish boy, Harvey, is born into a working-class family with a lumberjack father and mine-working mother, obsessed with counting her fingers and having conversations with people who weren’t there. Harvey grows up and the parents notice strange behaviour—he likes to touch people on the nose with his finger and he has twitches. Labelled by the doctors as having Tourette's—even though he never utters a word—his school life is such sheer torture that his mother decided to teach him from home instead. Unfortunately, both her spelling and her actually knowledge of the world around her leave a lot to be desired, so Harvey is taught quite a twisted take on the world and all its inhabitants— “Elephants can’t jump, butterflies smell with their feet.” With this kind of upbringing—well-intentioned but misguided—you can only imagine what Harvey gets up to when he grows up, and this is what the short is largely about. After a series of unfortunate and often ridiculous events, Harvey heads to Australia to start a new life and he only brings trouble with him.

Harvey Krumpet is a very unusual and intriguing little story that is surprisingly sombre and consistently amusing. It is also remarkably poignant and touching, capturing in its extremely short running-time a vast number of interesting escapades and lessons of life. Love, education, madness, adoption, cancer, old age—it’s all here, although you never expect what is around the corner. And the whole thing is focussed by an understated commentary by the great Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) – almost unrecognisable as the narrator of Harvey’s life story. Clearly intended for adults rather than children, I can see why Harvey Krumpet won the Oscar award for animated short, it is one of the most thoughtful films of any kind that I have come across recently, despite its running time. Although it may not appeal to everybody, for those with an open mind I would highly recommend this little gem.

Harvie Krumpet
Video
The main feature is presented with decent 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is good throughout, with few visual side-effects and no sign of a crossover into softness, however ‘soft’ the characters are in texture. The colour scheme is relatively limited because, even though only the first few minutes are spent in bleak Poland, they appear to have restrained from using too much sunlight or bright colours throughout the affair. Lipstick and clothing tend to provide the most colour, but none of this is a real criticism, the predominantly grey palette only adds to the substance of the film itself. Damage-wise I noticed only a few defects, and none which would interfere with your enjoyment of the production.

Audio
There are two audio options, a main English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and an additional English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and to be honest, there is very little difference between them. The production is an extremely quiet, almost introspective effort, with only a few standout loud bits that would distinguish the two mixes—for example the classical music they occasionally bring in or the singing towards the end. Now none of this is in any way a criticism of the presentation—having both key Dolby mixes is a brilliant effort for an animated short, it is just that the material does not particularly lend itself towards six-speaker surround sound. Still, the understated narration by Geoffrey Rush, however whispery, is never less than clear and comprehensible—emanating predominantly from the frontal array, with a few effects at the underused rears. Overall, it is a lot of effort, with an average result—both tracks present the movie well but neither tracks are particularly exemplary.

Harvie Krumpet
Extras
First up we get commentary from the writer, director and animator of Harvey Krumpet, Adam Elliot. He tells us of the animation’s origins—all of his films were biographies, and Harvey’s was the biography of the man with perpetual bad luck—and traces the production from concept to design to actual shooting. He goes through as many details as he can possibly talk about in the short time, discussing the ways in which they animated the production and giving some background into the characters and their creation. The only thing slightly lacking is talk of the actual lessons of Harvey’s life and the message behind this whole affair—assuming that there is one—and I found that to be a shame. I learnt very little that you could not glean from watching the movie itself and the end result is that the commentary is fairly dry and technical and will appeal to only those desperate to know how to make an animated short like this.

Next we get a series of other Adam Elliot short animations. The first is ‘Human Behavioural Case Studies, Part One’. Running at merely a minute in length, and even in only drawn form, you can still see where they got many of the ideas for Harvey from—especially the eccentric characters and the use of narration to take you through the images. The six-minute long ‘Uncle’ is Elliot’s first clay-mation project, about an eccentric uncle character. Again you can see many of the threads that were carried on into the Krumpet animation, and there are some very interesting concepts here. Next up is ‘Cousin’, which runs at four minutes in length and focuses on a disabled character that has superhero aspirations. The final part of the clay-mation ‘trilogy’ is brother, and is the longest and closest in theme to Harvie Krumpet itself. Although not as refined as the main feature, these short go some way towards bolstering the volume of decent material you have to watch on this disc and are well worth your time, especially if you like the movie itself.

Harvie Krumpet
There is also commentary that is available on all of the clay-mation productions, again by Adam Elliot, taking us through the shorts, explaining a little bit more about the background into them than he did with Krumpet. All of the characters were based on real relatives or friends of his apart from the final character—‘Brother’—who was actually based on Elliot himself.

The storyboard featurette runs at five minutes and basically comprises a collection of behind the scenes stills and storyboard comparisons, with Elliot himself talking over the top of them. There are several scenes compared to the final film, and it is always interesting to see just how close the story-boards were to the final result, but ultimately this is a one-watch extra.

Finally we get some Character Model Shots (basically the same shot from several different angles) for the main characters—Harvie, the loveable Ruby, Val and the brilliantly-conceived mad Scotsman, Hamish.

There is also an Easter egg available by highlighting Harvie’s cigarette on the extras menu, which takes you to a rendition of the classic song, Danny Boy.

Harvie Krumpet
Overall
Well, I highly recommend this animated short to all of those who are keen on being both entertained and having their thoughts stimulated simultaneously. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is anything like Wallace and Gromit or the like—it is not an out and out comedy, but more a bleak look at life made almost painfully funny by the sheer bad luck of the lead. The technical specifications of the disc are fantastic and the extras are absolutely tremendous—some of the best that I have ever come across and easily making up for the intentional but nonetheless short running time of the main feature. Considering the retail price I wouldn’t even bother renting this, I’d go out and buy it straight away.


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