A Town Called Panic and 5 Other International Stop-Motion Films

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Wes Anderson’s fantastic foxes aren’t the only animated thespians in theaters this season. Next week another stop-motion feature opens in New York, and instead of wildlife, stars francophonic plastic figurines — Cowboy, Indian and Horse. In A Town Called Panic, Cowboy and Indian shop online for Horse’s birthday present, only to receive 50 billion bricks more than they intended. Meanwhile Horse tries to court a mare music teacher, but can never find time alone.

Like any clever animated feature, Panic flaunts enough campy misadventure to suit the younger kids, while leaving room for older ones — with hilariously mature themes like the perils of online shopping and perverse scientific advancement. The film, also known as Panique Au Village, is based on the Belgian television series and was the only stop-motion feature at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Stop-motion animation creates the illusion of an object moving by combining frames of the object in incremental positions. After the jump, five other notable stop-motion pictures from around the world.

Mary and Max (2009)

Gothic and idiosyncratic, Mary and Max are unlikely pen pals who maintain a 20-year friendship between Melbourne and New York City. The Australian film was a the opening selection at the Sundance Film Festival 2009 and features the voices of Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Eric Bana.

Tengers (2007)

Corruption. Betrayal. Violence. An unemployed writer becomes entangled in the street politics of Johannesburg. The film, by South African director Michael Rix, screened at the Cambridge Film Festival.

The Book of the Dead (2005)

As a winner at the Japan Media Arts Festival, the cinematography beautiful and the dolls adorably creepy. A girl’s devotion to Buddhism conjures the spirit of a prince, who is haunted by the face of a woman he saw just before he died.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

There’s something about animated absurdity in a British accent that continues to entertain. After cheese, sheep and mechanical trousers, Wallace and Gromit are on a mission to find a horticulture criminal. The film won Best Animated Feature Film of the Year at the 2006 Academy Awards.

Fimfarum (2002)

Directed by Jana Wericha, the film is based on Czech folktales and won Best Animated Film at the Czech Critic Awards. One of the five stories is about an alcoholic villager who makes a bargain with the Devil for his firstborn. However, the fairy tales may be too unadulterated for children (i.e. an attempted suicide scene), unless they’re aspiring alcoholics or gamblers. A sequel, Fimfarum 2, was released in 2006.

A Town Called Panic opens at Film Forum on Wednesday, December 16 and will screen through December 29. Catch Q&A sessions with co-directors, Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, December 16-18. View the trailer below.