I'm a Fish
These days, feature-length animations tend to reach Australia from only two countries, America or Japan.
This is partly because of the enormous resources of technology and labour power needed to make the sort of spectacular work that can compete in the world market. But it is also indicates a rather insidious form of cultural power: animations from other countries, unless they are short, hardly register as a blip on the international cinema radar.
This situation may help explain why Help! I'm a Fish has taken three years to reach Australia, and why even its publicity materials are rather shy about declaring the fact that it is primarily a Danish production employing the services of an Irish animation studio.
Indeed, the film is a riot of non-American multiculturalisms: a moronic, vicious shark, for example, sports an Aussie accent.
Ironically, it is the adjacent presence of a Hollywood animated blockbuster, Finding Nemo (2003), that most likely created the belated window of opportunity for this more modest film on a similar aquatic theme.
Director Stefan Fjeldmark has assembled many talented collaborators for this tale of three children who find themselves transformed into fish. Down in the watery kingdom, the tyrant Jo (voiced with relish by Alan Rickman) is creating a fascist empire with the help of the same potion that altered the kids.
Help! I'm a Fish has all the cute jokes, sentimental hooks and orchestral surgings typical of the Hollywood product. But it also has a pleasingly Eurovision-style pop song component and, most importantly, a mild social-political dimension entirely absent from its American counterparts.
© Adrian Martin June 2003