Help, I'm a Fish (Hjælp, Jeg er en Fisk) (2000)

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Released 15-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer-UK and US trailers
Music Video-"Help I'm a Fish' - Little Trees
Gallery-Image gallery
Production Notes
Multiple Angles
Featurette-Making Of
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Crew-Jesper Moller - animator
Notes-Character profiles
Notes-Director's statement
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 76:57 (Case: 79)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Stefan Fjeldmark
Michael Hegner
Studio
Distributor
Hanway Films
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Alan Rickman
Terry Jones
Aaron Poul
Jeff Pace
Michelle Westerson
Louise Fribo
David Bateson
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Soren Hyldegard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Help, I'm a Fish is an animated movie which uses a combination of computer generated animation and traditional hand-drawn cell animation for a somewhat different appearance from recent animated films. Visually, some scenes, particularly those in the underwater 'city', reminded me a little of scenes from Metropolis, The Wall and numerous science fiction movies.

    It's quite an imaginative story that uses the mixed animation quite well without breaking any new ground artistically, storywise, or technically.

    The story is essentially about 3 children, Fly, Chuck, and Charles, who sneak off from home on a fishing trip. They accidentally end up in the laboratory of Dr Mac Krill who is working on a potion to make humans into fish as he believes the global warming will soon melt the icecaps, thus flooding the whole world. Fly's little sister, Stella, accidentally drinks some of this potion and turns into a very cute starfish and ends up at the bottom of the sea. Fly and Charles then consume the same potion to go in search of her. Consuming the potion comes with one major caveat. They must drink the antidote within 48 hours, or forever remain as fish!

    This being a film from Denmark, tends not to have the schmalzy feel of some of Disney's creations like Beauty and the Beast (well not too much anyway...), but still has a delightfully old-fashioned charm about the picture, the story and the music (of which there is plenty). There's not much of the wit, sarcasm or super-cynicism which makes some of the recent computer animated movies, such as Shrek, appeal to older audiences. This is very much aimed at a young-ish audience, though I still found it quite watchable throughout.

Help I'm a Fish premiered at the 2000 Cannes Festival and apparently held the number one spot in cinemas in Denmark for the 2 weeks after it opened in September 2000.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This was a great transfer, free of almost any artefacts that I could see.

    The feature is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While it is a clear picture throughout, it's not perhaps as razor sharp as say Shrek or Toy Story, but this was probably inherent in the original source itself. The colour was good, but perhaps not as vivid as other recent animated features. Once again, this was probably inherent in the source material and might well have been an artistic choice by the directors.

    The only artefacts I could find during the main feature were a very few small negative film artefacts which were never distracting.

    Whilst the film itself was transferred very well, I couldn't same the same for the end credits which must have been 'added on' for the English-speaking market. There was a lot of Gibbs effect around the text in the credits as well as quite noticeable telecine wobble. It was amazing what a marked contrast it was compared to the feature itself.

    Surprisingly there were no subtitles available at all.

    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A rather superb Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is provided for this film.

    There were 2 soundtracks provided: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 which appears to be surround-encoded. I listened to the whole 5.1 soundtrack and quite a bit of the 2.0 one.

    Dialogue was clear at all times and actually well synced to the animated character's lip movements. Quite impressive considering the original would have been in Danish. Some of the American accented voices they used were rather annoying, however. However, it was great to hear the voices of Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Hollywood's favourite gentleman thug, as well as Monty Python's Terry Jones (Meaning of Life, Life of Brian), in the two main voice roles.

    The music, by Soren Hyldgard, mixes lush orchestration with some pleasant, if slightly old-fashioned, songs (I counted five of them). Thankfully the songs themselves weren't too long, and the very Aqua-like (no pun intended) catchy title theme, by Danish girl-group Little Tree, was used well throughout the film. I'm still humming that tune!

    The surrounds were used very well throughout this film for directional effects, ambience and to carry the music. Particular examples of directional effects were at 13:37 and 16:45 with some particularly good panning across the rears at 38:40 and 54:56.

    Whilst this was by no means a bass-heavy soundtrack, the subwoofer was called upon on a number of occasions to support effects as well as the music. It blended in well and didn't draw particular attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Audio

    The main and secondary menus were presented in 1.78:1 ratio and were 16x9 enhanced. Both menus were also animated and had sound. The main menu allowed the viewer to select the film in Dolby Digital 5.1, or 2.0, select scenes and enter the features menu.

    The audio during the menus appeared to be Dolby Digital 2.0 and was surround encoded.

UK Trailer 

   This was presented in 1.78:1 ratio and was 16x9 enhanced with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Slightly lower quality picture compared to the transfer. No time information was encoded into any of the extras.

US Trailer

    This was also presented in 1.78:1 ratio and was 16x9 enhanced and also had Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This ran for a slightly longer time than the UK one and hence offered many more scenes from the film.

Music Video (Help, I'm a Fish)

    The music video for the title theme by the group Little Trees, who are apparently a well known Danish group drawing heavily on the Euro-dance style, sounding like a clone of Aqua from around 1997. As stated earlier I found this song quite catchy and enjoyed watching the video which interspersed clips from the film throughout the footage of these three young girls singing.

    It was presented in 1.78:1 and was 16x9 enhanced and the soundtrack was Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Image Gallery

   Sadly this was just a collection of stills from the film itself, and not of the background production or cast. Incidental music from the film plays in the background, interestingly in Linear PCM 48/16. I noticed some slight break-up in the music which might have been a fault with the recording or perhaps with my system's decoding.

    This extra was also presented in 1.78:1 ratio and was 16x9 enhanced.

Production Notes

    About 25 user-advanced pages of information about the animation process, the film companies involved and other good background information.

Multi Angle

    This allows the viewer to view two different scenes from the film, but in three different ways. You can either view the storyboard (with sound), or animatics (with sound), or the final version, by using the Angle button on the remote to change between these as the scene plays. I found this very interesting even though on my player it took almost 4 seconds to react to the angle change request!   This is probably a fault of the player more than the disk.

    This extra was also presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and the audio was Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Featurette - Making Of

       The typical "making of" documentary that is prevalent these days in which it's basically the director or actors talking about their roles in the film and congratulating each other on their work. However, to me it wasn't as self-congratulatory, or driven purely by marketing, as most I've seen for US releases. It does show a few background scenes as well as brief conversations with the two directors, Stefan Fjeldmark and Michael Hegner, as well as Alan Rickman and Terry Jones.  

    Surprisingly, given the other extras, this was presented in 4:3 full screen. Perhaps this featurette was produced for the large (in 2000) non-widescreen market outside Europe?

Filmographies and Video Interviews

    This was a collection of video interviews with five of the main crew as well as detailed biographies and filmographies of four of them. These were all presented in 4:3 full screen.

    Alan Rickman: His biography and filmography was very detailed and ran to a quite a few on-screen pages. The 'interview' was not so much an interview but an edited collection of his comments. Nowadays, and without any beard, Rickman just doesn't seem so menacing!  He talks mostly about his role in the film, but also a little about the inspirations he drew upon for the voice.

    Terry Jones: Again, his biography and filmography was very detailed. His 'interview' was much more interesting as he's such an energetic and animated (forgive the pun) person. As a fan of his from the Python days I loved watching this.

    Stefan Fjeldmark (director and screenwriter):   Less detailed information on him which is understandable given his relative young age and inexperience in film making. His discussion focuses on the story of the film itself and a little on the creative and artistic aspects of directing this film. The talk was a little dull as he does cover the plot in a little too much detail. There's also a little of the obligatory backslapping for Jones and Rickman.

   Michael Hegner (co-director):  his biography and filmography was very scant. In the edited presentation of his interview, he focuses, once more, on the story of the film, but from a very slightly different perspective. He also talks about the lead actors' roles.

    Jesper Moller (animator):  there was no bio or filmography for this chap. However I found his discussion the most interesting and informative of these five. At least he didn't talk about the story of the film, nor did he mention the lead actors!  He did cover the integration of the computer generated animation used for the 3d effect, and the traditional hand-drawn animation that he used for the characters themselves.

Character Profiles

    Basically these were a couple of pages on each of the six main characters: Fly, Stella, Chuck, Professor Mac Krill, Joe and The Shark. Presented in 4:3 full screen with no sound.

Director's Statement

    A few pages of one of the two directors, Stefan Fjeldmark's detailed reasons for making this film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It appears that this release is for all regions.

Summary

    This was an exciting and enjoyable film with a slightly old-fashioned feel about it (and I mean that in a nice way). It's presented on a great single-disc DVD that offers a great picture, superb sound, and a whole ocean of extras!

    It's great to see a children's film from Europe that's well presented on DVD.

    There's a tiny bit of 'violence' that might not be suitable for the youngest kids.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

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