A Town Called Panic is the epitome of a cult hit.
La Parti & Pic Pic André’s Belgian animated series follows the misadventures of Horse, Cowboy, and Indian; three figurines that move with jittery excitement and hysteria. They’re friends and roommates, although Horse is the dominant one of the house while the mischievous antics of Cowboy and Indian usually get the pair in trouble. Across from their home are their human neighbours, the kindhearted Jeanine and her brash husband Steven. They own a farm containing animals that can also think for themselves. It’s also worth noting a policeman (named, well, Policeman) is nearby whenever chaos boils over.
A Town Called Panic began as short films, which television stations would string together to make an extended program. The show is distributed by Aardman Animations, a British studio famous for their Wallace & Gromit series and acclaimed feature films like Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep Movie. I consider this an interesting factoid considering A Town Called Panic goes against Aardman’s usual witty fodder. A Town Called Panic is random in the sense that anything (and everything) can happen at the drop of a hat. It can be compared to Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force in terms of nostalgia and absurdity, but the innocence behind A Town Called Panic is what gives the show its own identity. It’s more like Gumby creator Art Cloke illustrating his fever dreams.
The mischief that Cowboy and Indian cook up stem from childlike curiosities, matching the animated aesthetic of the episode. The temptations can be small (like in the short Cake when the pair try and sneak a bite out of Horse’s dessert) and sometimes the stakes are high (Christmas Panic has the duo trying to fix a destroyed dinner and ends with them stealing back their presents from Santa).
GKIDS recently released A Town Called Panic: The Collection on Blu-ray, giving fans every bit of the show’s insanity (all 20 shorts, two specials, but minus their addictively wacky feature film debut). Across the board, the fast pace and the humour’s innovative ridiculousness is consistent. The voices and the figure design vary through each program – which was new to me – but the energy is always matched.
With lots of belly laughs, a big heart, and an encapsulating imagination, A Town Called Panic: The Collection is a must-have for any animation enthusiast or comedy fan.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie