Bruce Willis voices a wily racoon in Over The Hedge, a "frothy but entertaining" toon caper about woodland creatures in an endangered habitat. Critics were satisfied more than bowled over by DreamWorks' formulaic approach, but the film scored highly with moviegoers. It harvested $155m in international ticket sales - which is good, but small potatoes compared to Shrek 2's haul of $436m.
A Woodland Wonderland
A small cluster of featurettes accompanies the film on this Special Edition DVD, including Behind The Hedge. Co-directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick reveal the roots of the story in an eco-minded comic strip by T Lewis. Bringing his characters to three-dimensional life presented many challenges for the animation team, but most daunting of all was designing convincing fur. This is examined in more depth in The Tech Of Over The Hedge. The computer bods confess they were especially narked by copious 'hugging' scenes, which required them to write new programmes for the ruffling of said fur.
Bruce Willis calls RJ the racoon "the Cary Grant of the animal kingdom," in Meet The Cast. We get to see him along with the likes of Wanda Sykes and Steve Carrell thrashing about in the sound booth, but Garry Shandling (who plays Verne) is considerably more laidback. Even so, he insists he has nothing in common with the tortoise except that "we sound alike".
It's the animated extras that liven up this otherwise frugal DVD release. Thomas Haden Church lends his voice to Dwayne the exterminator in a spoof infomercial, encouraging people to "Make your own hours! Be your own boss!" and "Vent your bitterness towards society on animals!" Meanwhile RJ makes a Big Brother-style home video in Hammy's Boomerang Adventure. It's a rather twisted yet entertaining experiment to see what happens when Hammy, the hyperactive squirrel (Carrell), happens upon a v-shaped piece of wood...
Quick On The Draw
You can torture Hammy a little more in a set-top game based on a scene from the film where RJ tries to guide him in disabling a house alarm. For educational value there's a montage of pop-up animal facts (dubbed Critter 411) and printable activities accessible via DVD-ROM.
Older children who fancy a career in animation should check out the film commentary by co-directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kilpatrick and producer Bonnie Arnold. They talk more about the unique challenges of this project (still mostly "fur and foliage") as well as the process of developing the story. Complementing this track are five behind-the-scenes galleries showcasing the character and set designs, initial sketches and storyboards.
The extras aren't as bountiful as you might expect from a Special Edition release, but if you have children, this two-disc set should keep them happy for the winter hibernation.