Just a couple years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing a splendid little animated feature called Ernest & Celestine. It was a film I hoped to get to in the theater, but alas didn’t make it, but luckily I got to review it. Now comes the follow up from the people behind it, Long Way North, an adventure by sea of a little girl in search of her grandfather gone missing on a journey for many many years. In 2015, this French-Danish animated film won the audience award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Its now making its way to the US, and is debuting on Blu-ray via Shout! Factory January 17th. Be sure to get your pre-order in, as this is a pretty good unseen little feature.
Sacha has always been fascinated by the adventurous life of her grandfather and has the same calling as Oloukine to be an explorer. But Sacha’s parents, who already made arrangements for her marriage, strongly disapprove the idea to say the least. Defying her destiny, Sacha flees her home and launches an adventure-filled quest toward the Great North in search of Oloukine and his ship.
Long Way North is a fascinated adventure by sea tale that really elevates itself to making you forget you’re even watching an animated feature. There’s a grounded sense of realism mixed with youthful wonder that carry you away in the themes and performance in the film and just draw you in close. You’ve see adventures and tales of the sea before, but this one just does it really well, and stands tall above many live action iterations of similar topical journeys.
When the film opens and for much of the first act, it doesn’t feel like its going to deliver. There’s a slow, plodding kinda open to set things up that just has one in a sense of disinterest. Once Sasha runs away from home, things really start to pick up. When swindled out of a boat ride and forced to work at the tavern inside the Inn for room and board, THIS is where things pick up. We really see a humbling and build of a character we want to see on an adventure at this point.
Said adventure is a pretty good one that features many hardships, adversity and learning experiences along the way. I had no idea how this was going to end up, but it had me worried for our lead and the lot of the crew to make it out of their in the best shape possible. The film features some really engaging animated “action” sequences that pull one in and do a good number with well established geography and sound design.
Long Way North is a terrific little adventure by the high seas film that really is suiting for all ages. It might even more so be heavy for adults as they can understand or engage a little more knowing what’s fully happening. If you like films by the sea or were on board with the braintrust behind Ernest & Celestine, check it out.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: Long Way North transfers over to Blu-ray looking pretty good. Its a brighter picture with a solid, sharper look on its more simplistic animation. Its a very smooth animation style with minimal details, but edging and separation are all clean and neat. The boldness of this image is fine, but I want to think it could have been a hair more striking.
Depth: The film features a flat look, which is by design of the animation. Movements of characters do look natural and smooth in appearance.
Black Levels: Blacks are solid and appear so in intended use. Shading is done well, and no real details seem to be hidden that aren’t intended to be by the animation.
Color Reproduction: Colors are solid and very primary. They have an almost water color-like look, but not so thin-like. Yellows and blues come on strong and white impress with many different tints and tones.
Flesh Tones: N/A
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Dynamics: Long Way North has a pretty solid and commendable 5.1 experience. It does involve all speakers through out. Sound design is strong here, especially on this ship, which featured very well layers and sufficiently volumed sound effects. This all blends in with the vocals and music to create a healthy balanced audio mix.
Low Frequency Extension: Water crashed, deep sails stretching, a gun firing and the roaring of a bear all give a nice rumble in your subwoofer.
Surround Sound Presentation: There are some terrific moments from the rear channels during storms and wave crashing at the high seas. Unique sounds filter through the rear channels and wonderfully travel through the room as depicted on screen.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clear.
Long Way North comes with the DVD edition and a digital copy of the film.
Conceptual Short (HD, 2:04) – A dialogue-free trailer-like version of the film with similar, but different animation and a couple moments that weren’t in the final film.
Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (HD, 38:56) – In French with English subtitles, this is a pretty deep look back at bringing this animated film to life with all the trials, tribulations and style and techniques they used for animating through many different cities. There is also footage of the voice recordings as well as how they photographed or staged certain parts in real life to use for reference in the final animation.
Interview with Director Remi Chaye and Producer Henri Magalon (HD, 29:53) – This one is in English and gives a good stage by stage tale of making this film between the director and producer.
Still Gallery: Character Design (HD, 4:09)
Still Gallery: Concept Art (HD, 2:28)
Animatics (HD, 3:28)
Long Way North is a nifty story I found myself rather engaged and lifted during the viewing. Its presentation is a top notch one and the extras are actually pretty hefty, information and educational regarding the film. If you liked Ernest & Celestine, make sure you stick on the boat for the latest from this crew.