I had been apprehensive about this before going in. I wasn’t concerned that Aardman’s quirky stop-motion style would be lost in the transition to CGI animation; I was concerned that it wouldn’t. Aardman have pushed the boundaries of the stop-motion form, but there’s no hiding from the fact that the form imposes restrictions on the filmmaker. I like Wallace and Gromit, but W&G is enough claymation for me.
As it turns out, with Flushed Away they took all that was good about Aardman’s character design, and went wild with everything else. The action is dynamic, the backdrops are large and elaborate, and the supporting cast are varied and obsessively detailed. But if you pay close attention to the animation, you’ll see that the characters’ mouths don’t move smoothly from frame to frame: their expressions retain the same slight jerkiness that comes from the claymation technique of using a limited number of mouth shapes. Likewise, some of the skin textures bear a striking resemblance to molded clay: in close-up, the animators have actually gone out of their way to make the CGI look like stop-motion.
Aside from the visuals, the story is highly entertaining (posh domestic rat Roddy finds himself in the sewers of London, and caught up in a chase to retrieve a stolen ruby), with plenty of excitement, lots of laughs, and some great running gags involving sewer slugs. It is also very tightly scripted and edited. There were several obvious opportunities for the characters to drift off into long speeches explaining the plot for the hard of thinking, but they didn’t exploit any of them. The dialogue was always enough–and no more.
I can’t see this winning the Best Animated Feature award at this year’s Oscars, but if you want to know which I would prefer to watch again: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, or Flushed Away, I’d pick this one.