Once Upon a Forest, 1993 – ★★★

‘Once Upon a Forest’ is a rather simplistic, but non the less charming kids movie and is a latter-day offering from Hannah-Barbera. Its an animated talking animals movie for a starters, but the basic plot of the film follows three infant animals (a mouse, a hedgehog and a mole) as they set off on a grand adventure (well…as grand an adventure as can be had in 40ish minutes) to collect ingrediants for a remedy that will save the life of one of their younger friends after a freak accident on a nearby highway releases poisonous gas into the forest killing most of the plantlife and some of the animals in the process.

And this ones kind of difficult to get a read on, clocking in at just over 67 minutes, this thing really doesnt have time to do very much in the way of world building and the whole ‘adventure’ malarky. it’s quite literally, they head off to go do the thing, they do the thing, they come home with 3 minor trials that all get resolved in fairly unconvincing ways.

I think the film makers kind of realised it was a bit too short to really be able to drive home the ‘adventure’ element, so instead they rely on the strength of the characters they’ve created and some of the other world building elements to help try and win people over on charm alone.

I think it largely succeeds with that, the characters are all for the most part pretty likeable, the film develops them quite nicely, theres a reasonable humour to this thing (maybe a little mild for me personally but hey ho) and the script structuring, while a bit *too* quick to really be able to get a sense of a well earned arc, does at least have clear act structuing, character arcs and ends about as well as these things can do.

Its not the best kids film i’ve ever seen, but it does have a personality and vibe, which immediatley puts it above many of the botched offerings the mid 80s to mid 90s unleashed onto unsuspecting kids. I came away pleasently surprised by this thing, though not totally won over.

the art direction and animation is actually pretty impressive too, theres a nice fluidity to the characters movements, scenes have a nicely detailed depth to them and theres some lovely sequences that really pull the production up and above some of the mush put out around this time. The ONLY thing I really truely didnt like (and this is an odd one)…they give the animal creatures hyper realistic human hands. they’re super fluid and just…feel SO wrong to look at. Outside of that though, while I’d say the animation was maybe not up to the calibre of other kids films from around this time such as ‘The Pagemaster’ or ‘Rover Dangerfield’ it still is a colourful, bright and solid work.

The performances arrre a little grating in places, I think thats more of a ‘me as a grown adult watching a kids film’ problem though than an actual problem and Michael Crawford as Professor Cornelius is a mixed bag, but ultimately won me over before the end #Rrrrrrrumatism.

throw in a solid enough score that helps keep the whole thing tied together and I found this thing to be okay. I’d happily watch it again, I think kids would probably still kind of get on with it, though I think this will land MUCH better with quite young kids than it would,say, kids aged 6-10. Its just a kinda sorta, good film if you’ve gone through all the classics.

Oh, and because I couldnt really fit it in anywhere here. I dont know what Squirrels did to the folks at Hannah-Barbera, but there was NO need to make them just flat out racist to Badgers in this thing. NO NEED.

source https://letterboxd.com/tytdreviews/film/once-upon-a-forest/

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