Blu-ray Review: Firebreather
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Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Peter Chung
Starring Dana Delany, Jesse Head
Cartoon Network
Release date: March 22, 2011

Firebreather is a new movie/TV pilot which was on Cartoon Network around Thanksgiving of last year, but is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Firebreather is based on the Image comic by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn and it follows the adventures of a teenager named Duncan (Jesse Head), as he moves to a new school and deals with the normal high school stuff.

The only difference is that his dad is a 150-foot lizard monster named Belloc (Kevin Michael Richardson). Duncan’s dad is the king of the Kaiju, a race of giants who threaten mankind. Duncan, however, is half kaiju and half human, so while most of the time he looks fairly normal, in times of stress he will get all scaly, grow wings, and breathe fire. As the future leader of the kaiju, Duncan’s father expects him to be tough, while his mom expects him to live as a normal teenager with school and everything else that entails. As the heir, Duncan has to prove himself against other kaiju who are looking to gain power themselves.

The story has a lot of charm to it, and this movie works very well as a pilot to what I hope will be an eventual series. There’s a lot of room for growth in the story and an endless variety of monsters for Duncan to fight. The whole half-monster thing is a good metaphor for adolescence and how we all try to fit in at high school. We’ve seen it used before in different ways, but it’s really the execution that sets this apart from other shows.

Firebreather is very well-paced. It takes the time to explains who the monsters are, what everyone’s goals are, and what the stakes are, while still setting up all the characters and throwing in some action scenes before the story gets too bogged down. Not all of the characters are winners; I kind of wanted to punch Isabel, one of Duncan’s friends, as she is just an annoying character and is only there to explain plot points, but I got over it. Most of the characters are interesting enough for me to come back to watch more.

The animation is all CGI, and it follows the style of another Cartoon Network show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The CG allows the creators to make some pretty cool looking monsters and the action sequences are very well done. The action flows very well, and I never found myself getting lost in the fight scenes. It helps that Firebreather is directed by Peter Chung, the creator of Aeon Flux, and at this point an animation veteran. You can see some of his distinctive style carried into the characters, but it’s really in the action where he shines through.

However, there are a lot of elements that have a stiffness to them, particularly the characters’ hair, which tends to look like its being held in place by about a million cans of hairspray. Firebreather is not quite as bad as The Clone Wars in that category, but the animation is still a little stiff at times. I’m kind of a hand drawn animation traditionalist, and I have to say that the CGI look is not my favorite. This is when my taste choices bump up against the actual quality, and while I recognize that it’s well-done, I don’t have to like the style of it. I guess what I’m saying is that I wish Firebreather had used a different look; I guess the CG is a little cheaper to produce and it seems popular with the kids, which would be who this show is marketed for, and if that’s what they had to do, more power to them. I will just hold on to my old ways and enjoy any shows that do have 2D animation.

The extras on the disc are a little thin. There is one deleted scene, which is kind of odd because a bit of text before the scene makes it seem like there were more they could have included on the disc, but for some reason they only included one scene. There’s also a very cool 2D animation test that was used to sell the show. This kind of twists the knife a little for me because the test looks amazing, and it’s just a taste of what we could have gotten had the decision not been made to us CGI. Finally there are a few images from the comics and then some character design images. It’s all kind of standard stuff, but there’s nothing really mind blowing about it.

Firebreather is well worth picking up. While maybe not to my particular tastes, the animation is top notch and the characters and story are very fun to watch. I really hope that Cartoon Network either does a full series, or at least does another special like this one. There are at least three volumes of comics to draw from and it seems like there is potential for a good series.

This disc gets a 4 out of 5 from me.

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