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When you hear the term “made-for-TV movie”, quality entertainment isn’t usually what you think of. I mean, there are exceptions today if you see an exclusive film on Netflix or HBO, but usually, it’s a film with a TV-sized budget that has the off chance of being good, but is mostly low quality schlock. Not to say that there can’t be a good animated TV film, but they are rare and far between. Now, if this was back in the day, I would say a different answer entirely, since depending on the company, you could get some top-notch animation. This is where today’s film, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) comes into play. This was a British-animated film that was a TV special that aired in 1989. It was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films, which is most famous for Danger Mouse, and Count Duckula. The BFG was directed by the late Brian Cosgrove, who was a director for both Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. At its release, this movie was rated pretty positively, and I have seen many people nostalgically comment on the film. So, does it hold up today? Let’s find out!
The main story revolves around a young orphan girl named Sophie, voiced by Amanda Root. One night at the orphanage, she is kidnapped by this massive hooded individual, and taken to Giant Country. Of course, like anyone in this situation, she is terrified to be in front of a giant. Luckily, it turns out that she was accidentally kidnapped by the BFG, or as he says, The Big Friendly Giant, voiced by David Jason. The BFG doesn’t eat humans unlike the rest of his kind. It then turns into a film where Sophie bonds with The BFG, and the goal becomes trying to stop the other nasty giants from eating the humans of the world.
Let’s get whizzpopped, and look at the good parts of the film. Being made in Europe and in the end of the 1980s, the 2D animation is rather nice looking. It’s always pleasant to see how the rest of the world treats 2D animation with the respect it deserves, and while there are a few elements showing off its TV budget limitation, the character’s movements are fluid, expressive, and look so much better than what you would expect TV animation to be. Not to say there wasn’t good TV animation in this time period, but I wouldn’t say it was all great either, which is why I adore the visually pleasing animation of The BFG. Due to the time period this was released, you also get a lot of trippy and atmospheric scenery that engrosses you into its fantasy world, with its mix of bright and dark colors that set the tone of the different scenes. I also liked how there is a bit of an edge to the overall film, like seeing the giants actually eat children. Sure, it’s off-screen, but to show that this actually happens is still admirable. The voice acting is also pretty solid. I think David Jason brings an enjoyable light-hearted tone to the BFG, and captures the elements that make the character charming, like his speech impediment, and how he actually goes out and gives children and people happy dreams.
With that said, I do think this film does have some problems. The little girl is not really that interesting, as she comes off more like any normal child character that you still sadly see these days, and I feel like they could have made her bond with the BFG much stronger. I also found the BFG, while likable, to be a tiny bit too goofy. He wasn’t downright annoying, but they could have toned the goofy side down a bit. The other human characters are also pretty forgettable. Oh, and that little animal thing that is sort of in the movie is also pointless. I saw no reason for that little critter to be there. I think overall, the film needed more…interesting writing. If this film was done during Don Bluth’s hit line of films, or maybe done by a different director, they could have made the film a lot more fascinating. They could have delved into the darker themes, more into the other deadly giants, shown on-screen the humans getting eaten instead of off-screen. I also get why they had song sequences, but I wouldn’t say they were necessary.
While I can see why the original author of the book, Roald Dahl, liked this film, and you can tell the creators were very passionate for it, I just think it’s okay. If you really love this movie, then more power to you, I don’t think this is a bad movie by any stretches of the imagination. It has great animation, a likable lead character, some gorgeous scenery and atmosphere, and was not a waste of my time to watch the 92 minutes. I just think it could have been a lot more interesting. The DVD copy of this film is very easy to find and is cheap on Amazon.com. If you want to see another version of The BFG that is not the recently released and sadly flopping live-action version by Steven Spielberg, then you won’t be wasting too much time with this old animated gem. Now then, you might not be wasting your time with this movie, but you will feel like it’s a waste of time for the next movie as we look at A Wind Named Amnesia. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and I will see you next time.
Rating: Rent It