Opening 22 May 2014
Move over, Disney. Take a backseat, Pixar. The ultimate animated children’s film of the decade is definitely from Belgium. And the story is so simple, while each of the 50 characters is so alive, real, and touchable, that you want to jump into the set and live with them.
Thunder is a small abandoned cat, which finds shelter in an old villa. Other animals in the neighborhood refuse to go there because it’s haunted, but Thunder has no choice. Master Lawrence lives there with his animals and a collection of antiques and magical props. These things come alive, so that you have a talking light bulb called Edison, a ballet dancing doll named Clara, bells named Ding, Dang and Dong, and so forth. Then there are the house pets: Maggie the mouse, Jack the rabbit and Karle and Klärle, two pigeons. Maggie takes an instant dislike to Thunder – after all when did a mouse like a cat? Jack also hates Thunder, whom he perceives as a rival to his role as head of the household. Master Lawrence is a retired, world-famous magician who performs tricks for sick children in the hospital. Suddenly, Master Lawrence finds himself a patient in the same hospital, the victim of a bicycle accident. His sleazy nephew Daniel sees an opportunity to cart his uncle off into a senior citizens’ home and sell the old house. Soon, perspective buyers, one weirder than the next, begin visiting. Daniel finds it difficult to show them anything longer than a few minutes; he has a strong cat allergy.
So, you have different threads interwoven: Thunder trying to find a new home; Maggie and Jack trying to eliminate him permanently; Master Lawrence doing magic tricks when well and receiving bedside guests when injured; Daniel organizing the sale or even destruction of the house; Thunder recruiting his own friends to solve the house problem, while meeting up with an outsider: Kiki, the “Brad Pitt of chihuahuas.” The house is full of amazing antiques as well as magical props for the show. Looking at each scene is like reading a Wimmer book, and finding something new every second. For the first time ever, I appreciated 3D. Thunder literally eats out of your hand. Director Ben Stassen said that this was originally a 12-minute short film called The Spook House and played in an amusement park 10 years ago in 4D. The idea was so successful that it evolved into this full-length film for everyone, no age limit. I want to see it again and take all the kids in my neighborhood. (Becky Tan)