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Reviewed January 5th, 2004 by David Nusair


Second Star to the Left is a cute and inoffensive Christmas short, originally aired on British television. Though it’s not exactly groundbreaking, its combination of eye-catching animation and stellar voice work ensures that it’ll entertain both parents and kids alike.

The story revolves around three friends – a rabbit named Archie, Duke the guinea pig, and Babs the hamster – that are forced to band together when a present falls out of the sky. As we see (but the characters don’t), the present’s actually come from Santa’s sleigh. Archie’s right in the middle of complaining about his boring existence, when said gift comes falling right through his ceiling. A quick examination reveals that the present is for someone named Polly, who presumably lives inside the city (Archie lives on a farm). Duke takes a little convincing to leave his beloved cage, where he’s able to eat all the mince pies he wants, but Archie eventually does get him to accept the mission. They meet up with their friend Babs, a kind-hearted but sassy hamster that always seems to find trouble. En route to the city, they find themselves getting into a variety of troublesome situations – including a run in with a particularly nasty Siamese cat – but eventually do make their way to Polly’s house. As Babs insists on delivering the present the proper way (ie through the chimney), the three friends call upon the assistance of a helpful group of pigeons.

Second Star to the Left features all the elements that kids seem to love in their animated programming – cute animals that talk, comedic moment of slapstick, etc – but the film is also surprisingly engaging and compelling. Screenwriter Jimmy Hibbert does a nice job of turning these three characters into more than just clichés that behave the way we might expect such animals to. And among the actors, Hugh Laurie (best known for his work in the Stuart Little series) manages to turn a rabbit that looks an awful lot like Bugs Bunny into a fully formed character.

Though the film only runs about half an hour, Second Star to the Left is an effective and surprisingly enjoyable little family flick.

Audio: This 2.0 surround channel nicely captures the plentiful dialogue and other assorted sounds. The film’s lone musical number (it’s actually just a song used in a montage) is clear throughout.

Video: Interestingly, Second Star to the Left is presented with an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 transfer. This is most likely a result of it being produced for the BBC, but at any rate, it’s very bright and colorful (not to mention free of artifacts).

Extras: Aside from a seven-minute “making of” that features director Graham Ralph talking about the production and the origin of the story, the disc also includes a trivia game and some bonus trailers.

Conclusion: You can’t really go wrong with Second Star to the Left, which is short enough to keep even the most fidgety viewers entertained.


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