In Japan the direct to DVD market is exploding and has been popular for quite some time. Here in the states until recently you’d only find low rate horror films and T&A on the direct to DVD shelves. That’s finally changing with many great films in the works to go direct to DVD and a ton of excellent animated films included. Marvel and Lion’s Gate are producing films based on some of Marvel’s most popular properties and now Anchor Bay, Cartoon Network, Mike Mignola and Guillermo Del Toro bring us an animated Hellboy. To be fair this technically isn’t direct to DVD as it did air on Cartoon Network but I only just heard about the film when the announcement of the DVD was made.
The film was overseen by creator Mike Mignola and director of the theatrical film Guillermo Del Toro and even features the major actors from the feature films revisiting their roles in voice form for this film. Having Ron Perlman doing Hellboy’s voice adds some real weight to the animated version because it ties this film to the theatrical film plus he brings solid acting chops to the role.
In this adventure Hellboy is called to Japan to investigate a mysterious sword. While there Hellboy is taken to an alternate realm where he must fight an onslaught of demons from Japanese folklore to solve the mystery of the sword and save the day. The film starts off a bit clunky but once the adventure is in full swing it feels like a really solid Hellboy comic book. The animation is solid throughout and Hellboy himself looks fantastic. Selma Blair reprises her role as well and the animation interpretation is irritating because the drawing, which is heavily a mix of anime and Disney appears much younger than she actually is and than she appeared to be in the film. They have some new sidekicks that were actually pulled from the comics too. Kate Corrigan is a fun addition although the voice actress, Peri Gilpin (Frasier) has a much older sounding voice than the character looks.
All complaints aside Hellboy fans will love this feature length animated film as it features everything you’d expect from Hellboy, loads of action and plenty of goofy humor. Now, those looking for some character development will be a little disappointed. it feels like that was saved for the live action sequel being worked on now by Del Toro, but that’s ok because this film is supposed to be for teenage kids and adults so you can’t expect the character development to get to heavy. Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms is a perfect bridge between the first Hellboy film and the upcoming sequel.
The anamorphic widescreen presentation is gorgeous featuring vivid bright colors and solid blacks with minimal grain. I noticed only the smallest instance of shimmering and aliasing in a couple of places. This is one of the best looking TV to DVD animated films I’ve seen.
There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provided that has nice dynamic range but limited actual surround usage. The bass booms when necessary but it all never really feels immersive in the 5.1 environment. Dialogue, score, and sound effects are crisp, clean, and well mixed throughout the film. While it isn’t a particularly mind blowing presentation it is solid for a TV to DVD transfer.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc DVD comes in a standard amaray case with eye catching Hellboy artwork on the case and on a slip cover.
Inside the case is a full length comic book, not done by the man Mike Mignola though. I also find these shrunken comics a bit tough to read.
First up as far as disc extras is a feature commentary with the creator of the character and the original comics Mike Mignola and the creators of the film. The commentary is entertaining and informative with the creators talking about the characters and where they came from as well as the evolution of the film. There’s also a “Follow the Fox” feature similar to the “White Rabbit” feature on the Matrix DVD. Every time the Fox icon appears on screen during the film if you hit enter on your remote you’ll be taken to a short documentary tied to that section of the film featuring commentary from the creators of the film. There are five appearances of the fox leading to short documentaries that surprisingly get very specific in covering the film from the design of the props, adaptation from the comics, the score, and the design of some of the demons. All of these are very short, with the longest one running just over five minutes, but they do offer some good information about the overall creation of the film. Watching all of them together runs just under 17 minutes. You can get to them from the extras menu as well as via the Fox icon.
There are also four other featurettes in the extras menu that cover the history of the character, designing Hellboy for animation, segments with the voice actors at the studio including interviews with Perlman, Perlman, Blair, Jones, and Gilpin. The best and meatiest of these is a near 45 minute presentation recorded at the San Diego Comic Con that features Mignola, Del Toro, and the producers and writer of the film. Within this presentation they show early art and an animatic. there’s also a bit of video from the autograph signing after the presentation. The other featurettes are fairly short with the longest one running just under ten minutes.
Finally there’s a DVD-Rom presentation of the film that’s highly interactive. While you watch the film on your PC you can switch audio channels on the fly, switch to storyboards, search for keywords in the film, bookmark your favorite scenes, and a lot more. So, if you’re into the interactive DVD-Rom experience this is one of the best we’ve seen.
This is a really strong group of bonus features for this film, I was actually shocked to see so much. This sets a standard for films of this type.
The film does have some problems here and there with the voice actors and even with the animation matching the actions of the voice actors but overall this is a really great film in the Hellboy franchise that fans are sure to love and the DVD offers surprising level of extras to further enhance the viewing experience.
Overall ( Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 9.5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9.5/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 8.5/10