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Early Review: Firebreather Movie

Phil Hester's comic is given CG-life on Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network is airing two comic related movie events this week. I reviewed Young Justice last week and now it's time to look at Firebreather, airing Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. This is Cartoon Network's first original CGI movie event based on the comic by Phil Hester. For those not familiar with the comic, it deals with Duncan and tells the story of a teenager discovering he's different

The story begins with Duncan already  aware he has  powers and coping with a move to a new town with his mother.  Typical teen angst ensues while Duncan deals with his mom nagging him to focus on his homework, school bully Troy making his life miserable and figuring out what's going on with his new friend, Ken Rogers.  
What makes this teen-story different is Duncan's father is actually a 120-foot, fire-breathing dragon. And he's not just a regular dragon, he's the King of the Kaiju, a species of dragons that exist in this world. Like most fathers, Duncan's dad wants him to follow in his footsteps. He's been waiting years to meet Duncan and present him his legacy and that time is now.
 == TEASER == 

The movie has a total running time of one hour and nine minutes and follows the comic closely. The major difference is in the presentation. The CG character designs are far from Andy Kuhn's art style. The animation can look cool at times. It has a level of simplicity but the lighting and shadows add a nice touch. There are also other little details like the textures of Duncan's face and clothing as well as movement of hair. Unfortunately there are many times the CG gives the characters a cold feeling. Sure, It can be overlooked but every now and then I'd be reminded how artificial everyone was. What helps balance this is the voice acting. It's usually the case that the voice acting is stiff when it comes to animation but in Firebreather, that thankfully isn't the case. 

What about the "dragons"? This is where the movie shines. While I didn't try calculating if they manage to capture the right scale between Duncan and his father, you do get a sense of just how huge he is. When they finally come face to face their size difference is daunting.   

    The fire effects are combustible!
Overall it's an average production and the movie falls down when it comes to its animation. The story dragged on in the middle, but by the end the action was back with a fury.  I'm not sure how it would have worked as a straight animated movie staying truer to the comic.   
It's worth checking out, especially if you've read the comic. My seven-year-old daughter was hooked but just keep in mind there was a tiny moment or two that might not be completely appropriate for that age (it does deal with high schoolers). Firebreather was directed by Peter Chung (Aeon Flux) and airs on Thanksgiving Eve. 
Here's a few more images including the cool packaging Cartoon Network used to send the screener.  

35 Comments Refresh
Posted by -Vigil-

Sigh... I miss traditional (non-CG) animation...

Edited by EdwardWindsor

looks cool , CGi is always the best way to show a comic in my eyes. Animation has that extra depth of comicbook feel and colour  to it. Look foward to seeing it , cheers for the article otherwise would of probably missed it.

Posted by rlmay3
@-Vigil- said:
" Sigh... I miss traditional (non-CG) animation... "
Posted by Sanj

Tony, please tell me they explain how Duncan was concieved in the movie, because that is really nagging at me. I don't care what the explanation is, anything will do!
Posted by TVN
@-Vigil- said:
" Sigh... I miss traditional (non-CG) animation... "
I miss it too.  
Well I will check this movie out if I remember.
Posted by Mainline

Jealous you got to see this early!  Too bad about the animation but still will watch this eventually.

Posted by No_name_here

I've been a fan of Phil Hester's since I was 14. He's now a friend of mine and a mentor I'm very lucky to have. I'm so glad to see him and Andy reaching this new level of success and I know this series is going to take off, for sure. I've already got FIREBREATHER scheduled for my DVR and I'm seriously stoked to watched it tomorrow.

Edited by longbowhunter

I'm not a fan of CGI animation, but I dig some of Hester's stuff. I'll set my DVR.
Posted by The_Martian

I've read the comics, so I'll probably check this out.

Posted by Lovenuggets

Ive Never read any of his stuff..but in any case I still wanna see this.

Posted by Kid_Zombie

Neat. I've never read the book, but am intrigued by this show.
Although I'm a huge fan of traditional art, These days 3D animation is the way to go. My niece is 7 and she wont watch any cartoon if its not in 3D. Just does not interest her. My 4 year old nephew is not as bad, he loves cartoons like super hero squad and Batman, but he prefers the 3d animation also. just the way kids are these days.  If you want a show based on a concept that is not well known among the general public to be successful, then 3D would be the way to go I would think...Although Ben 10 was very successful.

Posted by Om1kron
@rlmay3 said:
" @-Vigil- said:
" Sigh... I miss traditional (non-CG) animation... "
I'm sure studios would love to bring it back if they could pay buildings full of animators to do key frames, in betweens, and then physically color each panel for dirt ass third world country slave labor money.  
Only that a a few 3-5 thousand dollar computers/drawing pads, a team of animators and colorists and a 600 dollar box of creativity for each computer (software) can put a animated movie together a lot cheaper and FASTER than the latter.  
So good luck on seeing anything traditionally animated anymore. 
Posted by Silkcuts

looks cool.
I haven't read any firebreather, so I trust your opinion G-Man.

Posted by Red Rum

I would have watched this if there was a cameo from a certain one of Firebreather's comic allies... you know which one I mean...

Posted by angryamazon
@sanj said:
" Tony, please tell me they explain how Duncan was concieved in the movie, because that is really nagging at me. I don't care what the explanation is, anything will do! "
right?! Either way I am excited for this!!! My daughter is 8 yrs old...almost 9...thanks for the heads up about possible inappropriate content for her age group. We set the dvr today for Firebreather along w/ Young Justice.
Posted by NightFang
@sanj said:
" Tony, please tell me they explain how Duncan was concieved in the movie, because that is really nagging at me. I don't care what the explanation is, anything will do! "
I think that would be to wired for some viewers, but it would be pretty funny!
Posted by N7_Normandy

I'll definitely check this out; premise seems interesting enough

Posted by rlmay3
@Om1kron: Actually, we were referring to non-CG animation, as in not 3D animated figures, implied by the "(non-CG)" in the initial quote. 
And yeah, it's amazing how animators in the 1930-50's could crank out cel animation right here in the USA without having to outsource animation like all of today's digitally animated shows.
Posted by Kamen Rider Kajiki
King of the ( Dai) Kaiju? isn't that just barely not breaking the copyrights? :P
Posted by G-Man

Who watched it last night? Thoughts?

Posted by NightFang
@G-Man said:
" Who watched it last night? Thoughts? "
I thought the movie was to short, not that much character development and the story could have been better, but it was a enjoyably movie that I wouldn't mind seeing 2 or 3 sequels and maybe a TV series  
Posted by SilverZeo

This was very well done, why wasn't it in released in theaters. Seriously, it Men In Black awesome!

Edited by NightFang
@SilverZeo: Yeah, I was wondering why it wasn't in theaters either. I guess they thought people wouldn't like a movie about human/dragon boy.
Posted by Illyana Rasputin

I don't know if I want to know how a gigantic, fire-breathing dragon procreates with a human being.

Posted by NightFang
@Illyana Rasputin: They don't tell how he was born, but the mother said it was pretty easy.
Posted by Primmaster64
@-Vigil- said:
" Sigh... I miss traditional (non-CG) animation... "
handrawn right?
Posted by Scrawnto
@NightFang said:
" @Illyana Rasputin: They don't tell how he was born, but the mother said it was pretty easy. "
I...what? I'm guessing you're talking about the birth. That wasn't about the conception, right? 
Can the dragons in this shape-shift? I mean, that's how Zeus got around.
Posted by NightFang
@scrawnto: The father can change forms and the two evil dragons have some  shape-shifting, but I don't know if they can become human.
Posted by The Average Bear
I really enjoyed the action in this movie. But the love interest aspect was kind of blurry. He likes the girl who at first, only liked him because he lured Belloc away (or that's what she thought). Then she treated him like a freak when she found out he was actually the spawn of Belloc, and then at the end of the movie went back to him. 
And then there's the girl who was completely taken by him, but she kind of just falls by the wayside as the popular girl moves into the picture. 
Nice, quirky girl: 0 
Popular girl: 1 
Kind of an invert to the original movie-romance-sub-plot formula. 
Posted by NightFang
@The Average Bear: Lol, it's that how real life works?
Posted by The Average Bear
@NightFang said:
" @The Average Bear: Lol, it's that how real life works? "
Nope. That's why I said MOVIE-romance-sub-plot-formula.
Posted by petran79
@Om1kron: computers can also be used for cheaper 2D animation.
Posted by MrMiracle77

I'm sorry I missed this after finding out that Dana Delaney was playing the mom.

Posted by Ligerdrag20

@Sanj: I know this was like... two years ago XD and I'm sure you've seen it already but in the movie his mom starts to explain and he stops here and just says he doesn't want to know :P

Posted by doomsilver

i liked the movie and Duncan he was cool