The style of animation refers to the technique of animation utilized such as 2D versus 3D, the way the characters move (in a zany, quick manner ie- Looney Tunes, or a natural, realistic way, ie- Brave), and the overall aesthetic of the animated project in question. It is the reason that a Japanese animated title, no matter who directed it, is readily discernible from a Disney movie.
The quality of the animation is about how polished and sleek the whole affair appears. Are background characters looped to repeat their short animation cycle over and over? Do the leads move stiffly, or in only very limited capacity? Then the quality of the animation is subpar.
Of course, neither are the sole indicator of the merit of a movie. Sherlock Gnomes boasts beautiful, smooth animation, with impressive vistas of its animated London cityscape. All in service of a lame mystery, even by Scooby-Doo standards, bad puns, and dumb characters. Just because it is a kids’ movie does not mean it has to be patronizing.
In 2017, independent studio The Asylum released CarGo, their third animated feature. It looks much cheaper than any recent theatrical film (although, it is the best looking of the Asylum’s completely CGI movies), with the backgrounds often lacking both texture and detail. The lawns in the film are large green patches as opposed to blades of grass. However, the musical is written by Gordon Bressack, of Animaniacs and Pinky And The Brain fame, and involves Shakespeare and cannibalistic cars. It is quite unlike any other movie out there and is entertaining, even if the animation isn’t the best quality.
The Legend Of King Solomon follows the exploits of the young king (Oded Menashe) trying to escape the shadow of his dad, the dearly departed, beloved David. While Solomon is already wise and can talk to animals, the storytellers don’t spin yarns about him. That is because he has not done anything noteworthy.
“…the exploits of the young king (Oded Menashe) trying to escape the shadow of his dad…”
Bilquis, the queen of Sheba, comes to Jerusalem intent to marry Solomon. But first, he must pass a series of riddles. He ably does and is then tasked with making a name for himself. Solomon decides the best way to do this is to bring Asmodai (alternatively spelled Ashmoudai), a great and powerful demon, to the city in a magically sealed container. Setting out with his best friend, Toby the fox (Ori Laizerouvich), getting the demon is easy. But once in the city, Hadad (Nitzan Sitzer), a man who curses Solomon for what David did to his people, unleashes the demon. Asmodai takes full control of Jerusalem and believes he kills Solomon in the process.
Solomon lives though and seeks the city of Ammon. It is the location of the only being that can stop the evil entity at the height of his power, the sandworm Shamir (Albert Cohen). Disguising himself as a beggar, Solomon gets a job as a dishwasher and gathers intel from the animals to find Shamir. One day, while saving a camel from a cruel master, he meets Princess Na’ama (Eden Har’el). As the two bond over their fondness for wildlife, they fall in love. Can Solomon find Shamir and put right what he messed up? Does he choose the beautiful, but shallow, Bilquis or Na’ama?
The Legend Of King Solomon’s quality of animation, considering this is Israel’s first animated movie for children, with some animation being completed in Hungary, is remarkable. The characters move smoothly, the backgrounds are layered nicely, so the cities feel alive with people, there is no visible ghosting or tracing of animatics anywhere to be found, and the bright colors pop.
The voice acting is quite good as well, with Menashe proving to be a thoughtful yet still energetic Solomon. Laizerouvich’s comedic timing as the never serious fox is spot on. Albert Cohen finds a fun spin with his magical old man, and Har’el imbues the princess with a lot of sass and determination which is delightful.
“…a lively, interesting first outing for Israeli animation.”
The director Albert Hanan Kaminski, who also co-wrote the movie, brings style and keeps the ball rolling in a fun way. Asmodai flings Solomon, and Toby, into the air, believing they’ll be splattered onto the ground upon landing. Solomon asks an eagle to ensure they land safely, but the eagle refuses. Solomon is seemingly at a loss but does eventually get help for a rough, yet non-fatal, landing This scene quickly cuts through a lot of characters and different backgrounds, with limbs flailing as Solomon falls. It is impressively mounted and highlights the lively camera work perfectly.
However, a few issues are present. First off, is the tonal whiplash of Solomon and his plight, and the character of Toby. Audiences are introduced to both of them as Solomon walks the market to see how his citizens are doing. At a little puppet theater, telling of one of David’s many triumphs, Toby tells a bee that Solomon wants the animal to sting a nearby horse to cause a commotion. This happens as Solomon is getting testy with the puppet theater’s owner and the stories he tells. The two mix oddly.
Things such as that often happen, making Toby seem more of a nuisance than a friend. The more significant issue though is the animation style. The character designs, aside from the demon, are unpleasant to look at. Solomon’s jaw is square, but sharply so, giving him a chin that he could use as a weapon. Na’ama sports a simple, round head, but her neck is so long it is awkward. Thanks to the quality of the animation, it never gets downright ugly, but I never was as engrossed as possible because I did not enjoy looking at these people.
The Legend Of King Solomon marks a lively, interesting first outing for Israeli animation. The story is fine, the voice acting is good, and the quality of the animation is quite high. Kids will probably have a good time. Adults, on the other hand, will be put off by the inelegant character designs.
The Legend Of King Solomon (2018) Directed by Albert Hanan Kaminski. Written by Albert Hanan Kaminki, Gyula Böszörményi. Starring Ori Pfeffer, Hana Laslo, Ori Laizerouvich, Eden Har’el, Nitzan Sitzer, Oded Menashe, Albert Cohen.
5.5 Gummi Bears (out of 10)