In words, or even in still drawings, Norman Lindsay's idea of a magic pudding – this living thing which replenishes itself as it is eaten by all comers – is mind-boggling, but still palatable. In a feature-length animation, the concept takes on horrific proportions.
The makers of this revamped version of The Magic Pudding – Robbert Smit is the animation director and Karl Zwicky the overall director – seem aware of the problem. They have adopted a Spielbergian approach, emphasising both the sweet, sentimental aspects of the tale and its occasional moments of monstrosity.
They have even invented a new character, Uncle Buncle (voiced by Jack Thompson), who fumes and schemes in a Dantean hell-hole, catalysing a quasi-apocalyptic finale worthy of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1984).
Lindsay purists have already begun complaining about the liberties taken with the original story, and the internationalist treatment it has received. Hooks for the world market are everywhere – especially in the choice of John Cleese to provide a voice and character for the pudding itself. Another Spielbergian touch is the sub-plot giving Bunyip (Geoffrey Rush) a pair of parents whom he longs to find.
For those not concerned with the fidelity of the adaptation – that is, most of us – the film manages to be short, sweet, energetic and amusing.
As a work of animation, The Magic Pudding is well crafted and technically adept, although truly inspired only in its more fantastic apparitions. It is mercifully – despite the roster of stars at the microphone – much less driven by voice work than, say, The Road to El Dorado (2000). The film's entertainment value is marred only by a very unmemorable bunch of songs.
MORE Zwicky: Paws
© Adrian Martin December 2000