Cryptozoo Review – Trippy Magical Creatures Animation Packs Up | Movie
UExtremely bizarre in the best possible way, this hand-crafted animated feature film by writer-director Dash Shaw (originally a comic book / graphic novelist) is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Unless you’ve seen Dash’s previous feature, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, a wacky wonder that does exactly what it says on the tin. Dash’s follow-up delves deeper into a world of counterfactual fantasy, steeped in a nostalgia for 1960s hippie values that could only have come from someone too young to have actually lived through the era. But if a certain disarming naivety permeates the work, it nonetheless has an evocative punch, with a moral message on intolerance and the need to protect the most vulnerable species. It’s also one of the few films that could potentially induce a psychedelic trip with its visuals alone.
The story itself is sprawling and (frankly) a bit of a mess. It’s around 1967 and veterinary cryptozoologist Lauren Gray (voiced by Lake Bell) is working with her mentor Joan (Grace Zabriskie) to keep a Disneyland-meets-zoo sanctuary for “cryptids” – magical creatures like gorgons, semi-krakens. freed (they are kept in enclosures), winged horses and others. Gray struggles to find other cryptids in order to protect them, but she competes with shady opponents who want to harness the powers of the creatures for military purposes. If this all sounds cute, know that there is a lot of nudity here, and a lively orgy unlike any since the release of the X-rated Fritz the Cat in 1972.
The animation itself is very straightforward, made up mostly of frame-by-frame drawings where only tiny elements of the composition move at all times – a technique as old as cinema itself. But with these awkwardly proportioned figures, Dash’s graphic style draws inspiration from 19th-century illustrations, especially the golden twilight tarot card game directly referenced here, as well as that of the host René Laloux Fantastic planet, the popular children’s book D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, and the near-art nouveau look of psychedelic illustration from the 1960s. Animation used a bit of computer work here and there, but the vast majority of the movie was made the old fashioned way – a real treat for animation geeks of all ages.