Screenplay, Greg Haddrick, original story, Taylor. Camera (color), Peadar O’Reilly; editor, Gerry Grogan; music, Stephen McKeon; production designer/storyboard, Taylor; animation director, Paul Bolger; character designers, Taylor, Bolger; layout supervisor, Eddie Gribbin. Reviewed at Galway Film Festival, July 10, 1999. Running time: 74 MIN.
Voices: Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Laurie, Steve Brody, David Antrobus, Amanda Ebbington, Ron Haddrick.
Well-made debut feature by a former Tim Burton collaborator exudes bundles of energy in what is essentially a darker reworking of the “love conquers all” adage. Helmer Deane Taylor was art director on “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Carnivale” has a similar highly stylized feel to it. Contemporary fable will work for auds ages 7-plus with an eye for adventure and thrills.
In this tale of paradise regained, a group of children playing by the seafront pass through a time-travel portal. Finding themselves in a deserted early-20th-century deserted theme park, the kids enthusiastically explore the hall of mirrors and Punch & Judy booth. But a dark, creepy aspect emerges: If they don’t leave soon they’ll remain there forever, trapped as inanimate park attractions. After running a gantlet of exits, including a ghost train and freak show that are genuinely terrifying, kiddie smarts helps the crew escape back to reality. Well-defined characters are voiced with gusto, with Cenzo (Hugh Laurie) , Milly (Helena Bonham Carter) and Jack (David Antrobus) most memorable. Story is well paced, and Stephen McKeon’s high-octane score, which owes a lot to Danny Elfman, is noteworthy.