24 October 2016 | ThomasBleedPHD
A fascinating lost film, finally found.
The Electric Piper is unique in that it is a Nickelodeon animated film not based on any pre-existing property or franchise. It really wouldn't be that notable if this film weren't technically "lost" for the past ten or so years.
Produced for airing in 2000 and premiering only once on Nick in February 2003, The Electric Piper was a film with a cast of celebrity voices and a soundtrack of original music. This is probably why it was trapped in copyright limbo three years after it was made and over a decade after it was released.
The movie is a modern-ish retelling of the fairy tale of the Pied Piper. I use the term "modern-ish" because it's very clearly set in the 1960s. That's actually one of the coolest things about the film, the style and aesthetic of the film is heavily influenced by 60s subculture. By making the film an intentional period piece, the movie keeps it's setting from feeling stale or dull. It really adds an interesting layer to the film.
The film is a beat-for-beat retelling of the Pied Piper with a few extra bits thrown in there. The story follows a pair of siblings, Mick and Janis, who live in the town of Hamilton. Their father is the mayor, and he's stubborn and old-fashioned. This description applies to virtually all the parents in the town. Eventually, the kids start noticing that the city is infested with rats. Sly, a smooth-talking musician with magical powers and a sweet guitar, offers to rid the town of the rats in return for the mayor's Harley motorcycle.
The film is a musical, with groups of characters singing songs about the current situation and big dance numbers and trippy visuals. Just about everything you'd expect. Wayne Brady is the voice of Sly, and even though he's as far as a human being can possibly be from Jimi Hendrix, he sings quite well. If your ears could squint, you'd swear he really WAS Hendrix.
Amazingly, Rodney Dangerfield, Rob Schnider, and George Segal are all in this movie. They all give good performances but it's not like their characters are very deep or complex. Nobody really gets much of a character arc outside of the siblings, the father and Sly. The plot is very bare bones, doing only what it absolutely needs to and not much else.
The biggest problem with the film is its animation. It's very similar to a Butch Hartman cartoon (not surprising, since it's the same studio) which would be fine for a television show, but for a feature-length film, even one made for television, is simply not acceptable. If Scooby Doo can have decent animation in its movies, you should be able to pull it off too.
But overall, this isn't a bad film at all. It's entertaining enough to watch to the end and it does everything it needs to do quite well. The music is good, the plot is structured well and moves coherently, and the voice acting is especially good.
If you're interested in lost films or just animated movies in general, this is worth checking out. You can't buy it on DVD but it's up on an archive somewhere. Give it a look if you have the time.