3 February 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Burbank Film Australia's numerous animated adaptations of literary classics (mostly under an hour but some are also around 75 minutes) make for interesting viewing. They are variable but mostly they range from average to good, mixed with very good ones like 'The Wind in the Willows', 'Peter Pan' and 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and weak ones too like 'Don Quixote', 'The Odyssey' and 'The Prisoner of Zenda'.
Among the classics adapted are many of Charles Dickens' books, with a some understandable exceptions as 'Bleak House', 'Little Dorrit' and 'Our Mutual Friend' are particularly long and complicated and would have taken a lot of trouble to condense and not leant themselves well to animation while it would have been equally difficult trying to get something interesting made out of 'Barnaby Rudge'. Like Burbank's overall output, their animated adaptations of Dickens have met with mixed success. 'David Copperfield' and 'A Christmas Carol' were good, while 'A Tale of Two Cities' and especially 'The Old Curiosity Shop' (another lesser Burbank) disappointed. 'Pickwick Papers' is better than those two, but to me it is one of the weaker Burbank Dickens adaptations and somewhere around middle of the road as far as their overall output goes. It is watchable and a respectable enough adaptation, but suffers from the inevitable short-comings one sees every now and again in Burbank's animations and from the potential traps there are adapting the book.
Starting with the good things, there are some nice colours and backgrounds. The music fits with the atmosphere well, not enhancing but not dissonating with it either.
Characters are done well, especially Pickwick, Jingle and Weller, good thing too as they are three of the most interesting characters in the source material. The story is at least coherent and doesn't feel dull, while there are scenes that see one understanding why the scenes are so fondly remembered. They being Weller being hired as a valet, the feud with Jingle and the breach of promise. The writing is generally thought-provoking and flows, a respectable job is done making it accessible to younger audiences while maintaining the book's spirit (which it comes close to doing).
'Pickwick Papers' does suffer quite badly inevitably however from the condensation. It does feel too short and the storytelling can jump about structurally and in pace, feeling like a series of highlights/episodes more than a story (the source material, which is episodic, is at fault too with this though).
Other characters aren't as juicy and are fairly forgettable and while some of the voice acting is pretty good there are points where it is on the too broad side. Found much of the animation to be one of the biggest problems, the drawings and character designs being too stiff and crude, the over-cartoonishness affecting the atmosphere's authenticity.
To conclude, watchable and laudable attempt but doesn't quite work. 5/10 Bethany Cox