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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Daydreamer
The Daydreamer
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // March 4, 2003
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 17, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

From Rankin/Bass, the makers of the classic stop-motion animation film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Daydreamer takes the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen for its subject. This 1966 film is clearly intended for young children, with exaggerated characters and simple dialogue; nostalgia is probably the only reason why adults would find it entertaining.

The frame story (of Chris and his father) is live action, while the dream sequences that tell the fairy tales are stop-motion animation. These sequences are more fun than the live-action ones, in large part because the colorful puppets fit more naturally with the exaggerated actions and dialogue of the film.

The stop-motion effects in The Daydreamer are, not surprisingly, very out of date... but that's actually not one of flaws of the film at all. Despite their dated feel, the effects are quite charming, and in fact some of that charm may come from appreciating how the filmmakers were doing the best they could with the techniques of the time, as in the "storm at sea" scene in which Chris is shown to fall into the water and then splash back up again. In other stop-motion scenes, the emphasis has been on a kind of cute, non-realistic style, as with the puppet-like humans, or the mice who appear in Chris' house: they're clearly intended to be more akin to stuffed toy mice than real mice, and this lets us enjoy them for what they are.

Where The Daydreamer goes wrong is in its story, which wavers between half-baked and just plain uninteresting. The story is a loose compilation of various Andersen stories, linked together by the character of Chris dreaming each of them in turn in his quest for the fantastic "garden of paradise," while his shoemaker father searches for his runaway son. If we're supposed to like Chris as a character, the film certainly botches his characterization. Chris whines and complains about how hard life is and how they don't have any money to buy things; he's not interested in doing his lessons, he doesn't see the point of his father's work, and he even gripes about what's for dinner. Is this unlikable kid really supposed to be the great dreamer and writer of fairy tales? It's hard to believe. (A much better presentation of Andersen as a young man is in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale). Chris' father is presented as an incompetent fool whose saving grace is his love for his son. I can see that the filmmakers were going for laughs with this character, but in the end the effect of having the two main characters be a whiner and a bumbler just isn't beneficial for the film overall.

The ending is left curiously ambiguous, which is odd considering the very young audience that the film appears to be aiming for. The film appears to promise a moral of sorts, in the sense that Chris gets into trouble by breaking his promises. However, no resolution is provided; the film ends up where it started, and there's no particular sense that Chris has learned anything from his adventures. It's perfectly acceptable for a story to simply offer adventures for their own sake, but the oddity of The Daydreamer is that seems to set itself up for more of a point than it ends up making.

The DVD

Video

This 1966 film is presented in its original "Academy" aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Considering its age, The Daydreamer looks quite nice in its DVD transfer. Colors and contrast look great; you may wince at the "hurrah for Technicolor" color schemes that combine bold primary colors in, shall we say, "unorthodox" combinations at times (lime green and robin's egg blue...yikes) but the colors themselves are fresh and bright. Even the most vivid colors don't exhibit any bleeding, either. The print is fairly clean, with a moderate amount of noise that's not too distracting. Very few print flaws are in evidence; I noticed a few subtle vertical lines, but on the whole The Daydreamer looks like it's been well cared for (or well restored).

Audio

The Daydreamer includes a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, which on the whole is satisfactory. The opening and closing narration puts a new meaning to "muffled," sounding like the speaker is shut up in an empty room somewhere with his voice piped out to us. The remainder of the soundtrack, however, is adequate, with the voices reasonably clear and with no background noise or distortion.

Extras

A few minor special features are included on the DVD: a trailer and three TV spots for The Daydreamer, along with a photo and poster gallery. An insert in the case also provides some interesting background information on the making of the film.

Final thoughts

The stop-motion animated stories in The Daydreamer have enough appeal that very young viewers may enjoy the film, despite its weaknesses in terms of overall story; there's not really enough of substance that adults will want to watch it along with the kids (at least not more than once), but the nostalgia element may add some value. The film has received a solid DVD transfer, and probably looks as good as it's possible for it to look. I'd suggest this as a rental for viewers with kids or who have fond memories of the film from their own childhood.

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