Birthday Boy
R4 - Australia - Accent
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th May 2005).
The Film

Australian film has a very strong tradition of excellence (ok there were a few blunders along the way) but generally speaking the caliber of films coming from the land down under has been fairly good. Mad Max, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Walkabout, Chopper, Dirty Deeds, Crocodile Dundee and The Castle are but just a few examples. Not only have they been hits in their native land but they have always been well represented overseas and have made the careers of many filmmakers and actors/actresses.

What we haven't seen much of from Australia is animation, until recently with Adam Elliot's 2003 Oscar winning short film Harvey Krumpet that is. Which I believe has put a spotlight on Australian animation that did not previously exist. And so far the work that I have seen released has been marvellous, Birthday Boy is no exception.

Birthday Boy tells the story of Manuk, a child living in a small village in Korean during the Korean War. Manuk, a playful and energetic boy plays in the streets pretending to be solider fighting at the front, when on one afternoon he discovers a package on his doorstep. Manuk believes that it is his birthday present but the contents will change his life forever.

This short film was created by Sejong Park while attending the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Park used his own childhood experiences as the basis for the film’s theme and main character Manuk. When discussing the theme of the film he stated in an interview I wanted to draw a comparison between the innocence of childhood and the reality of life in wartime. (From the official web-site) and he did exactly that, Park’s vision has been beautifully animated in glorious 3D with the use of Maya animation program.

The images are just breathtaking the backgrounds are rendered with stunning realism and Manuk is a joy to watch. The film has a muted colour palette that suits the time period very well. The story is poignant and well executed in just under 10 minutes, and the film has been received with high praise for the filmmaker. Having won the 2005 BAFTA and AFI (Australian Film Institute) awards for Best Short Animation and having been nominated for a 2005 Academy Award as well. It certainly has been a whirlwind year for the Korean animator. It’s clear that we have a future star of animation and I personally hold my breath in anticipation to see what Park has in store for us next.

Video

Presented in the film’s original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, this anamorphic transfer is superb. I have not doubt that it was produced directly from the film’s original digital source. The image is sharp and crystal clear, the colours are wonderfully rendered, and blacks are bold and well defined. On occasion the backgrounds do lose a bit of detail but overall I found that this transfer is free from any major flaws.

Audio

Two audio tracks a available for this film and are both in Korean. The first is a Dolby Digital 5.1 and the second a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 track. There is generally very little dialogue in this film the sound is mainly compromised of atmospheric surrounds, sound effects and music, which are all mixed well throughout the 5.1 sound space especially the train sequence. For what little dialogue is present in the film it comes out clear and distortion free. Overall this track is a decent accompaniment to the excellent video transfer.
The film also features optional subtitles in English, French, Japanese and Spanish.

Extras

The first audio commentary you’ll find on the disc is by editor Adrian Rostirolla. Rostirolla discusses the editing process briefly here mainly keeping this film moving along and the various cuts that were made to create this final version.

The second commentary features the sound designer Megan Wedge and composer James Lee. Wedge discusses the importance of the ambient sounds used, Wedge explains that this film is largely driven by the sound and music as dialogue plays a small role in the film. Lee chimes in as well and talks about the subtle music that is sparsely laid throughout the film and describes its relevance to the scenes and overall themes that Park was trying to convey.

The last of the commentaries features writer/director Sejong Park and producer Andrew Gregory. Park discusses story aspects while Gregory delves into the production side of things.

Following that is a Storyboard to Finished Film comparison running at 7 minutes 40 seconds we get to look at the film during three different stages of completion with the use of different angles. To view the three stages use the Angle button on your DVD remote, there are four angles to choose from, the first is the storyboard stage, the second is the rough animation stage, the final version and the fourth angle shows you all three stages on one screen. This is an interesting extra that provides the viewer a little insight into the various stages an animated film goes through but could have benefited greatly had it been accompanied with an audio commentary.

Next up we have the first of two featurettes entitled Bringing Manuk to Life and running at just 40 seconds, this short featurette displays the character Manuk in 3D form and as the character rotates around the various layers of the animation are added gradually to show you the process required to bring a character to life. Manuk starts life as a wire frame, then he is shaded, texture is added to skin and clothing, then the character is lit appropriately and the final rendered version is complete and ready to port into the film. Although all too brief, we get a general understanding of the different layers the 3D animation process a character undertakes but much like the previous extra a commentary explaining the process would have been priceless.

The second featurette Putting the Pieces Together runs for 2 minutes and 52 seconds. This segment explains the process of creating the different multi-layered aspects of the film such as the movement of vehicles, the use of different elements to make the train seem like its moving fast and also looks at the backgrounds and how they are blended in to give the viewer a sense of space and location. The piece is commented over by Peter Giles from AFTRS.

We also get a gallery of Production Art that runs for 32 seconds and features artwork done by Park during the early stages of the film’s production.

The last and final extra on this disc is a promotional TV spot for AFTRS.

Overall

Birthday Boy is an engaging and moving tale that demonstrates the talents of one of Australia’s up and coming animation filmmakers. The Accent DVD presents the film with a terrific transfer and a decent sound mix and for a short film the disc includes a series of good extras, although brief they demonstrate the animation process adequately, but the commentaries are the true highlight of this package. This release is highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.