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It seems everyone is cashing in on Pixar’s mega success these days. DreamWorks PDI were first to get in on the action with their hugely successful Antz, just a few years after Toy Story became the biggest grossing film of 1995. They later followed up on this with the more recognizable and family-friendly Shrek. A few years passed, and more of these digital animation studios popped up, including what is arguably the third biggest and most popular studio after Pixar and DreamWorks PDI – Blue Sky Studios, and their Fox Animation Studio sidekicks. Their first digital flick together – Ice Age – became a suspected global success, seamlessly capturing the heart of what animation can be, while pushing some rather interesting visual qualities before our eyes. Robots is their second digital film, and while not perfect in execution, is nonetheless a wonderful smash hit that’ll charm you in ways only animation truly can.

Robots
Film
Robots tells the story of Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor), the cheerful robot inventor hopeful of making it big in the city. He has many dreams, one of which involves meeting his inventor idol, the other to try and make the world a better place with his ideas. But what he finds when he reaches the city is corrupt ideals and a class system that seems to throw all his ambitions out of the window. When he stumbles into the bizarre robot by the name of Fender (Robin Williams), he finds himself teamed up with a group of outcasts, and together they try and change the way of life for disadvantaged robots everywhere.

Just as DreamWorks are over reliant on celebrity casting for their laughs, Robots unfortunately seems to take a leaf from their book in this regard. Though admittedly nowhere near as bad as say Antz, Shrek, Shark Tale, Shrek 2 and Madagascar (oh, I guess that’s all of them), it does seem to fall back on a bit of the old celebrity charm every once in a while – when the comedy sketches run a little dry. Still, Ewan McGregor is great as the lead, and all those who have missed Robin Williams’ naturally comedic vocals since Aladdin will be pleased to know he has some superb lines, and naturally perfect delivery as always. Even James Earl Jones makes a cameo as a Darth Vader voice box – in what is easily one of the most hilarious parts of the movie.

The animation on offer is nothing shy of brilliant. Everything has a crisp, clean feel in the upper-class of robot society, and the lower-class showcases rusty, rugged designs that almost always appear alien and otherworldly. It is a great mix of old and new, clean and grimy effects that together create a highly detailed, almost believable fantasy world with its own attitude, rules and behaviour. As wonderful as this animation is however, it doesn’t quite compare to that of Pixar’s – neither in its environmental nor its character designs. But who cares? It’s bright, it’s shiny, and looks drop dead gorgeous. Pixar or not, Blue Sky really knows how to dazzle the audience with both on-screen candy and a family friendly no-brainer story.

Robots
Video
Straight from the digital source, Robots looks about as good as can be expected from a computer generated animation flick. The colours are wonderfully bright and organic, and the metallic effects will look jaw dropping on a good television screen. I found the overall detail to be a little on the softer side, and while a tad of sharpening wouldn’t have gone down badly, the presentation is still superb nonetheless.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is great. General audio is clear, well defined and has enough punch in the action scenes to give your subwoofer a good workout. Dialogue is also accurately balanced and reasonably energetic too. You’ll also experience quite a lot of directional effects during some of the climactic action piece, and again, these all sound great.

Extras
Annoyingly, the DVD boots straight in to the film instead of going to the main menu – which is quite inconvenient. Once the menu system does boots after pressing the button on the remote, it is actually quite dull, but simple to use. First up we have a feature length audio commentary from the director, which is interesting and quite lively. Chris Wedge is shaping up to be one of animation’s rising stars, and it is nice to hear his insights and thoughts in this commentary.

‘Aunt Fan’s Tout of Booty’ is a four minute short film featuring Aunt Fan herself. It offers some chuckles and the occasional laugh, but it’s nothing to get too over excited about. ‘The Voices of Robots’ interviews some of the cast in a typically generic feature. ‘Music Video’ is a horrid pop video that ties straight into the film, though bares almost no resemblance to anything Robots has to offer.

‘Discontinued Parts’ opens a menu of deleted scenes. There is an option to watch them individually of course, but a useful ‘play all’ function is available if you want to watch them all in one burst. ‘Meet the Bots’ brings up a menu with images of the film’s characters, you can select any one of them and be subjected to read a small description and, if you chose, see a rotating 3D model of that character.

‘The Robot Arcade’ opens up two more features: ‘Robots Dance’ and ‘Fender Photo Shoot’. The former is utterly pointless, but I am sure the kids will find it mildly amusing. Basically, you can select a dance move for the robot to perform and it will carry out your request. The latter has a series of images appear and you have to remember the details of each, so as to be quizzed on it later. Finally, there’s a trailer and a sneak peak for the forthcoming sequel to Ice Age.

Robots
Overall
Robots is a good film; not a perfect one, and not one that comes anywhere near to Pixar’s level of quality, but a good, respectable film in its own right nonetheless. It will make for a delightful hour and a half of entertainment with the family, and that’s all you really want at the end of the day. The DVD is also quite a catch, with excellent audio and visual aspects and a decent array of features. If you enjoy animation, good quality DVDs or just want a post summer flick to curl up to, then Robots is the one for you.


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