Scarecrow suggests: Stop and shop for stop-motion gems
Stop-motion-animation films galore are available on video, and some on DVD, including: "The Wind in the Willows," "A Claymation Christmas," "The Adventures of Mark Twain" and of course, Aardman's Wallace & Gromit films.
The 1983 British stop-motion animated adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows" follows Mole, Rat, Badger and Toad as they get into a bit of mischief while traveling across the countryside. The film spawned a TV show that we also have available.
Filmmaker Will Vinton has his own section up in our animation room, a group of films that includes "A Claymation Christmas" and "Meet The Raisins" (California Raisins, that is). We recommend "The Adventures of Mark Twain" (1985), a stop-motion journey which takes the author and his young creations Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn up in a hot-air balloon to find Halley's comet. The group witnesses several sketches from Twain's stories during their ascent through the clouds.
"The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix" (1975) is an enjoyable Norwegian stop-motion film about talking animals who take part in a high-stakes road race. A beloved classic in its country of origin, it has yet to be really embraced (or released on DVD) here in the U.S. But its goofy humor and detailed miniature world would appeal to fans of "Wallace & Gromit." Its pace and action are much faster than we're accustomed to in vintage stop-motion.
"The Moomins" is a series of books by Finnish author Tore Jansson about a family of hippolike trolls and their forest adventures. Also loved in its native land (there's a Moomin World amusement park in Finland) and across Europe, the books have inspired several cartoon versions. Scarecrow has the animated adaptation from 1990 as well as imports of the 1979 stop-motion series.
Like "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Pom Poko" (1994) pits nature against man. In this case, a pack of excitable raccoons set out to sabotage the developments encroaching on their territory. It's not a stop-motion film, but was directed by Isao Takahata under the umbrella of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.
We also love the great works of Aardman Studios, the people responsible for "Chicken Run" and "Creature Comforts," along with all things associated with the aforementioned "Wallace & Gromit."
For older children and adults, there's 1993's "The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb," which gives a nontraditional interpretation of the classic fairy tale. In this version, Tom Thumb is a medical experiment gone wrong who ended up growing to be just 6 inches tall. One day he's kidnapped from his poor but loving home, and the subsequent adventure is a dark fantasy reminiscent of Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "The City of Lost Children."
We also recommended several other film adaptations of Roald Dahl's work: "James and The Giant Peach" (1996), a stop-motion musical directed by Henry Selick (who made "Coraline" and almost directed "Fantastic Mr. Fox,"); "Matilda" (1996), a live-action movie starring Mara Wilson as the precocious title character and Rhea Pearlman and Danny DeVito (who directed the film) as her downright cruel parents; and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971) featuring Gene Wilder's iconic performance as the clever candy maker. Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005) is great as well, but has a much darker take on the source material than its predecessor.
If you enjoy "Fantastic Mr. Fox" director Wes Anderson's distinct, stylized storytelling, we recommend three of his best, "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), "Bottle Rocket" (1996), and "Rushmore" (1998).
Contributed by Scarecrow Video, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle; 206-524-8554 or www.scarecrow.com.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.