you hop in, and I'll press this lever
to get the bubbles going..."
Roddy St. James is a “society rat” living
a pampered life as a pet in a posh
Kensington flat. His days are simply perfect
until salacious Sid enters his abode.
Roddy wants rid of his uninvited guest, but
his clever scheme to flush the carbuncle
away backfires horribly, and Roddy's own world
is turned upside-down, head over
heels and right around the U-bend, as he tumbles through
the sewer system and
into the heart of a sprawling underworld known
as Ratropolis. Here he falls in with
the sewer-wise rat Rita Malone, and falls
out with the villainous Toad, and hench-rats
Spike and Whitey. Rita and Roddy unwittingly
hold the key to Toad's diabolical
plan to flush away Ratropolis altogether.
And when his henchman fail him once
more, the green meanie calls in his arch
cousin from France, Le Frog, to get
the job done...
"Flushed Away" was the
third film to be produced as part of Aardman Animation's
ongoing production agreement with DreamWorks
SKG. The project was first
announced in July 2002, and in what was then
a surprise move, it was revealed
as being Aardman's very first CGI feature
project. The production was subsequently
undertaken in Glendale, CA in the studios
of DeamWorks Animation, with ne'er
a stop-motion camera in sight. Incidentally,
the studio defended their decision to
go CGI by pointing out just how water-soaked the
story was; water being
notoriously tricky to animate using traditional
Stars giving voice to the characters were
revealed throughout the production
schedule. They included Hugh Jackman as Roddy,
and Ian McKellen as Toad,
alongside the likes of Bill Nighy, Andy
Serkis and Jean Reno. For a while Nicole
Kidman was mooted as the voice of Rita, but
Kate Winslet subsequently filled
When the first trailers and ads for the
film were launched, the billing was
noticeably DreamWorks-centric. Indeed,
the posters and trailers proclaimed
that the film was from the creators of "Shrek"
and "Madagascar". The four
time Oscar-winning studio from Bristol
were seemingly overlooked. But there
was a marketing tactic behind this apparent
"snub". Aardman's previous
film for the studio, the magnificent Curse
of the Were-Rabbit underperformed
Stateside, despite being the best-reviewed
film of 2005 and subsequently
collecting an Academy Award. Such are
the ins-and-outs of movie marketing.
Still, things had been corrected by the time
of the film's release, with
both studios receiving equal billing on the
final posters and previews.
the butlers saw
All films embark of various development
twists and turns en route to the screen,
and "Flushed Away" is no exception.
It was at one stage even going to be
called "Ratropolis". But here's one
of the more interesting story changes for you,
involving these two chaps:
You see, Roddy St. James was originally going
to have two butlers in his
Kensington apartment, but alas, although
Gilbert and Sullivan featured in the
first promotional trailers they never
made it to the finished film. They were
dropped so as to facilitate Roddy's character
progression. At the start
of our story, Roddy's all alone in his
opulent surroundings. He has everything
he could possibly wish for, except companionship.
Then he stumbles upon
Ratropolis and Rita and her extended family
and realises he would be far
happier foregoing his riches for their
wealth. Gilbert and Sullivan served only
to muddy the waters of the story, so the
hamsters were - well - they were
"Flushed Away" opened in US
cinemas on November 3rd 2006 and it swum off
with a little over $64m. Worldwide it took
just over $176m. But this had to be offset
against an inflated $149m production budget. In
February 2007, DreamWorks and
Aardman decided to terminate their production
partnership. And "Flushed Away"'s
under-performance surely played its part
in the boardroom decisions...
Now, after all that preamble you might
be forgiven for thinking this film is a flop.
But you couldn't be further from the truth,
because there's a veritable cistern's
worth of delights to be had in this miniature
tale. The film is a jingoistic
triumph, celebrating all-things great
and British - both modern and traditional.
There are things to discover in almost
every frame, it has bags of heart, and
quick-fire wit and warmth.
That unique Aardman look is to the fore in
the characters and set designs, there are
those familiar overbites, expressive mouths
and hand gestures, and even though
they're rendered on a computer, the characters
look and move beautifully. Hells
bells, there are even thumbprints and blemishes
worked into the textures of the
stars. The sets are stuffed-to-busting with
invention, witty references, spoof product
names and cameo billings. And there are
those little asides and moments that only
Aardman bring to the production table. You
know the kind. The ones where
there's a pause in the tale, where a character
simply stops to think and blink
and muse in such an affecting way. It's genius.
It's 100% Aardman.
You know, it's frustrating that folks
don't always get the subtlety of Aardman's work.
They can only see a pause, oblivious to the
awkwardness within it. They don't
always see the frailty of the character, the
fragility of a relationship that's exposed
by a twitch of the mouth, or a blink of an
eye. There was a danger the DreamWorks
machine would simply roll all that out
of the production. But it's still here, thank
goodness. And so too are those wonderful little
character traits like - well - Rita's
cute habit of adjusting her pants all the time.
That's Aardman for you...
...only, this time, it isn't stop-motion
and that may have proven an insurmountable
obstacle for some viewers. You see, when
you're watching a stop-motion movie,
particularly an Aardman movie, part of you remains
in an almost subconscious
awe of the extraordinary effort involved. At
some level, you are constantly aware of
the frame rate, and the step-by-step manipulation
of the characters. It's all hand
made, and it's such hard graft. But once
it becomes a series of rendered pixels,
wrongly or rightly, you end up distancing yourself from
the creation. No matter how
fabulous the rendered frames are, that
real-life blinking, twitching charm has gone.
It's Aardman, all right. But it's just computers.
Someone taps a keyboard and the
software takes control. In other words, it's
lost its uniqueness. And when you see
those computerised thumbprints, you can't
help but wonder how these characters
might have looked as stop-motion stars.
But you have to get over that. Now. Because
"Flushed Away" is super-fun,
and this reviewer reckons it's been wrongly
sidelined since its theatrical release.
Roddy St. James and Rita Malone can stand
proud alongside Wallace and
Gromit, and Ginger and Rocky. Heck, it'd
be fun to revisit Ratropolis some day,
via a TV series, or a short film or two. "Flushed
Away" is Aardman at its very
best, with singing slugs to boot. There just
isn't any plasticene!
"Flushed Away" is stuffed-to-busting
with Aardman and DreamWorks nods in
the background detail. And to prove
this, The Hound has sat down again with
the movie on DVD to identify a
of it for you!...
Hound: Feb 2007 The
Hound: October 2004
The film wins 5 Annies... Nicole
Kidman joins the film?...
Hound: Sept2006 The
Hound: August 2004
fine new poster... Ian
McKellen hops on board...
Hound: July 2006 The
Hound: July 2002
The new trailer... The
film is announced...
Away on DVD
2 / Paramount / April 2007
Away (Widescreen Edition)
1 / DreamWorks / February 2007