It’s strange to think most animated Disney films suggest that the parents are absent or dead, their departure restoring our main character to become a strong self-sufficient explorer.
James and the Giant Peach manage to eliminate his parents with so much joy you start to wonder if it’s a joke.
The film kicks off with a soft toned and soft focus live action scene, where James lives by a picturesque seaside with his adoring parents. All seems splendid and then… well, it’s not so splendid. His parents are eaten by a massive Rhinoceros.
The story wouldn’t be so cliché if James (Paul Terry) wasn’t driven into a gloomy life with his dreadful relatives, also known as Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spike.
They treat James like a slave, bullying him and feeding him fish heads – if he’s lucky. Isolated and alone James draws his wildest dream on a paper bag, making it into a hot air balloon and floating it away by a candle flame.
An old man (Pete Postlethwaite) found James’ bag and returns it to him, full of green crocodile tongues. James spills the bag and a handful of the tongues hop away, however one bewitches an old peach tree and a massive peach starts to grow.
His aunts are schemers and sell tickets to their giant peach attraction. James decided to try a bite of the forbidden peach and it releases the peaches secret magic, this is where the film switches from live action to animation.
James unearths that the peach is populated with brightly coloured insects: an earthworm, glow-worm, grasshopper, spider, ladybug and a centipede. All of which are chummy, unlike the frightful mechanical shark that attempts to gorge on them. James and his new friends are however saved by seagulls that lift their massive peach into the sky by a silken cord.
James and the Giant Peach is the second collaboration between producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick. James and the Giant Peach used stop-action animation, where 3D puppets are moved fractionally in-between each frame, giving the deception of movement. In these settings, they used drawings, animation, and real life.
Burton and Selick did, however, bring stop motion to a new level. The characters flow so fluently in comparison to the obvious shaking in older stop motion.
The striking insects are also full of colour and brought to life through the stop motion, with such real textures that it’s creepily in-between reality and imagination.
James and the Giant Peach is based on the famous children’s book by Roald Dahl. It will inspire children and adults interested or not interested in stop motion animation. Giant peaches being carried by seagulls, traveling to the Arctic Circle and scary underwater scenes with pirate ships are all entertaining scenes.
Giant peaches being carried by seagulls, traveling to the Arctic Circle and scary underwater scenes with pirate ships are all entertaining scenes.
It all ends well, though, James does finally reach his destination at New York, where even more adventures are anticipated.
The movie eschews a quality that is hard to beat and with it comes a fantastic story that can only come out of the mind of the genius that is Roald Dahl and is definitely one to go back to on your own or one to watch with your kids or younger relatives.