Chuck Jaffee: Upping the ante of childlike playfulness |

Chuck Jaffee: Upping the ante of childlike playfulness

When you were littler, did you play with figurines, moving them around, making up stories? Did you have the kind that were two-inch tall characters mounted on solid, puddle-like platforms so they could stand on their own?

Do kids still grow up physically animating, two-inch tall inanimate toys with no electronic circuitry beyond their own vivid imaginations? But I digress.

In the claymation film “A Town Called Panic” a cowboy figurine named Cowboy and an Indian figurine named Indian share a house with a somewhat larger figurine – a horse named Horse. Unlike Cowboy and Indian, four-legged Horse needs no puddle-like platform to stand. Curiously, however, Horse gets around town driving a car.

Horse also does things like brushing his teeth and playing the piano. Horse wants to play the piano better, so he signs up for a series of lessons at the school. What Horse really wants is to make a little romance with the music teacher, who happens to be the only other horse in this film.

Obstacles like a million bricks and undersea detours complicate the lives of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse.

The stop-motion photography in “A Town Called Panic” bends and twists through a storyline that spills beyond any lines the filmmakers may have initially drawn. It’s a treat watching them risk creative overkill in making the scenery and the scenarios work. It’s a treat that will likely satisfy children and adult nonsensibilities.

Painstakingly upping the ante of childlike playfulness, the recipe for this fresh movie experience is three parts clever, two parts silly, one part stupid and one part too much already.

Mega-blockbusters like “Avatar” and mainstream animations like “Up” saturate our technologically-baked, movie-going imaginations. They’re impressive. They’re fine, highly commercial choices. For a low-tech counterbalance that is no less a testament to movie making dedication, for a road less traveled and a peculiar bit of fun, visit “A Town Called Panic” at the Nevada Theatre, Sunday, April 11.

Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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