The Princess And The Goblin

1992, Movie, G, 82 mins


While it falls short of the technical perfection of recent Disney productions, this animated fairy tale is sturdy, somewhat old-fashioned, and generally quite pleasing.

While her father the King (Joss Ackland) is away, Princess Irene (Sally Ann Marsh) slips away from her nanny, Lootie (Mollie Sugden), and gets lost in the forest with her cat Turnip. Menaced by goblin creatures, they are saved by the singing of a peasant lad, Curdi (Peter Murray)--goblins can't stand singing--who returns with them to the castle. The next morning, Irene meets her ghostly, magical Great Great Grandmother (Claire Bloom), who gives her a ring which will enable her to follow an invisible magic string. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing deep underground in the goblin village. Curdi, sneaking off in a wagon driven by Mump (Roy Kinnear) and Glump (Victor Spinetti), overhears the goblin king (Robin Lyons) and queen (Peggy Mount) plotting to displace the humans (or Sun People) and live aboveground. As part of their scheme, they intend to flood the mines where Curdi's father works, kidnap the Princess, and marry her to their foul, lisping son, Froglip (Rik Mayall). Curdi is captured on his way to warn the King but Irene finds him by following her magic string and rescues him. When the goblins attack the castle, they're are repulsed by the King and his guards, whom Curdi has directed to sing and stamp on the goblin's feet, their only vulnerable point. Froglip snatches Irene, but she is saved by Curdi, who throws Froglip into the torrent of water unleashed when the goblins flood the mines and castle.

Directed by the Hungarian Jozsef Gemes (HEROIC TIMES), THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN is based on George MacDonald's classic novel of 1872, which is cleverly adapted by Robin Lyons (who also produced and plays the befuddled goblin king). While the story line is reminiscent of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, the fresh and funny screenplay generally avoids the cliches to which even Disney films frequently fall prey, and the requisite moralizing is painlessly presented.

The movie is superbly designed (especially the Dickensian goblin village), and Les Orton's animation, using full multi-plane depth effects, is smooth and inventive. As usual in children's animated fare, the good guys are somewhat boring, but the host of grungy goblins is vividly realized, looking like Gahan Wilson drawings come to life. The movie's musical score, by Istvan Lerch, is middling, but the single song--"A Spark Inside Us," written by Lyons with Chris Smart and sung by Paul Keating--is catchy, if somewhat overused. Originally released in the UK in 1992, the film is an unusual co-production between Wales (where most of the principal animation was done), Hungary, and Japan; it received scant theatrical exposure in the US in June 1994 before heading for the video shelves. The picture is whimsically "dedicated to the babies born during production," and 17 are credited, which attests to both the large number of people and the great amount of time required to produce a major animated feature. leave a comment

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