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Being one who will watch practically anything in 3D, I've gotten to see a number of interesting 3D CG-animated movies from different countries including Khumba from South Africa, Tad, the Lost Explorer from Spain and The Seventh Dwarf from Germany, all released on 3D Blu-Ray for American audiences. Quackerz is another addition to that list- although it's produced by a company called Rome Animation and Film Studio, they are actually located in Russia. Like the aforementioned movies, this one is a bit different from the usual American animated fare.
A group of Mandarin ducks lives near the ocean in China. Their leader is Emperor Peng Li (voiced by Enn Reitel in this American version), who believes that when the sun sets every night, he has to meditate to "pump" it back up or else the world will be left in eternal darkness. His son Longway (Robbie Daymond) is destined to be the "Sun Duck" who will eventually sacrifice himself to save the sun from being permanently destroyed, but his father keeps him distracted with video games hoping that he won't ever find that out and end up killed. (There doesn't seem to be any other plan to save the sun if Longway doesn't, but that might have been lost in the translation to English here.) The colony is soon invaded by a literal army of Mallards, led by Commander Duckmus (Michael Gross of "Family Ties", sounding unrecognizable) who is a war-monger but not very smart- he meant to invade Hawaii but ended up in China instead, and then won't admit right away that he's landed in the wrong place. Meanwhile we've also got human villain Ms. Knout (Allana Ubach), an evil witch-like character who wants to harness the power of the sun to keep her looking youthful forever, and has to capture Longway in order to do that. She enlists two bumbling thieves to do that job for her, but Longway ends up becoming friendly with the Commander's daughter Erica (Andrea Becker) and the two of them have to talk enough sense into the two opposing groups of ducks to defeat Ms. Knout- if Longway can fulfill his destiny as the Sun Duck and not get killed in the process, that'll be a nice bonus.
So yes, Quackerz is quite strange, but it works. There aren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments as any jokes also seem to have been lost in translation, but most of the duck and human characters are still rather humorous in their design and behavior, with a number of non-verbal slapstick gags such as the two thieves being chased by a local cop armed with a number of contraptions. (Ms. Knout later tricks him into falling in love with her so that he won't botch her plans.) The story is set in a nondescript time period and the design has a bit of a "steampunk" aesthetic to it- there are a few elements that suggest it to be around the 1930s, yet Longway plays with a tablet computer which wouldn't have existed then. (We're shown one of the games he's addicted to which looks modeled after something for the Nintendo system in the later 1980s.)
The Blu-Ray disc is presented in 3D with a 2D option (and all Blu-Ray copies include 3D, so you don't have to worry about getting the "right" edition like with the bigger titles.) While there are no real 3D gimmick shots (the potential for a few come up, such as a whip being cracked at the audience, but they fall short of coming right out of the screen) the overall depth is strong. Characters in the foreground protrude forward a bit, and background objects appear very deep. One shot taking place up high even gave me a feeling of vertigo for a brief moment, and the short look at Longway's video game is nicely rendered in 3D better than the few games on the defunct Virtual Boy system. (You could ask how he's getting 3D looking at a screen with no glasses on, but it could be a larger version of Nintendo's glasses-free 3DS screen technology I guess!)
The overall picture quality in both 3D and 2D is also very good, with no noticeable compression artifacts or banding (which typically show up more obviously in 3D.) A standard DVD is also included which of course doesn't look as good, but still adequate.
Both disc include both 5.1 and 2-channel mixes, in DTS Master Audio on the Blu-Ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD. The 5.1 mix is impressive, taking a cue from Pixar and having most of the spoken dialogue panned relative to the characters' onscreen position rather than keeping all of it centered. Some dialogue even comes from the rear channels when appropriate, and a number of other rear channel effects give the sound a 3D quality as well. At least the American version works a few pop songs in as well, though unfortunately one of them happens to be "Who Let the Dogs Out?" which has already been used quite enough in many animated movies. The original music score almost makes up for that.
Hearing-impaired subtitles are included on both discs.
Both discs include a few scenes repeated with storyboards and designs along with video footage of the English dialogue being recorded. There is also a still-frame gallery of concept art and text descriptions of the main characters, with a trailer for the movie. Both discs open with a trailer for Albert: Up, Up and Away! All extras on the Blu-Ray are in 2D, but keep the screen in 3D mode so you can keep your glasses on with the brightness and contrast levels still properly set for them.
Quackerz is amusingly unconventional even if it's not laugh-out-loud funny (I suspect a bit was altered by the English translation.) The 3D animation and design are very pleasing to look at, with very good use of multi-channel sound as well. Recommended.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.