A Town Called Panic: The Collection Blu-ray Review: Belgium's Greatest Export

GKIDS and Shout Factory! present what is arguably the funniest Blu-ray of 2017.
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Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s A Town Called Panic is a stop-motion animated Belgium TV series that began in 2002. Set in an idyllic countryside where toy figures of people and animals live together, the 20 five-minute episodes present delightfully absurd adventures, most of which feature the antics of roommates Cowboy, Indian, and Horse. Standouts include “Cow-Hulk,” which finds Cowboy transforming into various creatures after unintentionally swallowing a tiny piece if a meteorite, a number of the gang fighting over a flower in “Still Life,” and “Robin,” whose inaccurate bow and arrow cause farmer Steven quite a bit of trouble, and Steven is a guy you want to see angry.

Skipping their feature film, A Town Called Panic, this collection includes the 2013 short “Christmas Panic!”, also known “The Christmas Log,” which played in theaters last year with “Back to School Panic!”. The former finds Cowboy and Indian defying the Naughty List and breaking into Santa's workshop to steal their presents. The latter is an even wilder tale as Cowboy and Indian shrink down and sneak into fellow student Pig's brain in order to learn the distance from the Earth to the Moon to win a trip there. There is also a new short “The Sound [or Noise as it appears on the menu] of the Grey” (HD 3 min) where the gang stumbles upon a quiet, grey-colored room and soon change its appearance. 

For those unfortunate souls who haven't seen them yet, they are in for a treat. The creators use a modified version of Newton's Third Law, much like those behind the Wile E. Coyote / Road Runner cartoons: For every action, there is a ridiculous reaction. The cartoons feature a lot of slapstick and destruction and a form of logic that works in this world. No matter the length of the story, the comic minds of Aubier, Patar, and any collaborators consistently deliver hysterical high jinks.  There's no continuity or origin stories so the cartoons can be watched in any order.

“Christmas Panic!” and “Back to School Panic!” are available in a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.85.1. The colors appear in bright hues and blacks are inky. The textures of the characters and settings never let the viewer forget they are watching a world of toys. There's a sharp focus and good depth on display.

The audio is available in DTS-HD 5.1 in both English and French. I prefer the original French because the characters are funnier to me. I just wish the English captions properly used a comma when characters spoke directly to one another. Slight ambiance is apparent in the surrounds, and the crashes and explosions have a noticeable power to them for a cartoon.

The TV shorts appear in 480i and Dolby Digital 2.0, so the picture isn't as sharp or vibrant and the audio only comes out the front speakers.

For those who enjoy silly things, visiting A Town Called Panic is a must, so add The Collection from GKIDS and Shout Factory! to your collection.

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