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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.