Cranston Academy: Monster Zone review – colourful if derivative Hogwartsian animation

The two nominal main characters of this derivative but reasonably amusing computer-animated feature are a pair of teenage kids attending an elite Hogwartsian science school called Cranston Academy in London; the location signified by the fact it rains all the time and the teachers drink tea. Awkward American Danny (voiced, puzzlingly, by British actor Jamie Bell), who prefers to work solo, is forcibly teamed up with prissy but whipsmart Liz from Australia (Ruby Rose). Together, they get the school’s nuclear reactor working, but it opens up a portal to another dimension. This Promethean class project unleashes all manner of monsters, many of whom recall the creatures in Pixar’s Monsters, 株式会社. but with less affable personalities.

The production, directed by Leopoldo Aguilar, emanates from Mexican cartoon studio Anima Estudios, which is interesting because only a tiny amount of animation comes out of the third country in North America, compared with the US and Canada. That also explains why, out of an already culturally eclectic cast of characters, a Mexican scientist is assigned the key role of semi-magical helper character. Known only as Mothman (voiced by Idzi Dutkiewicz) – he’s half-human, half-moth – he speaks the human language with a heavy Spanish accent and also sports wings and has a overwhelming urge to whisper sweet nothings to every lamp and torch he meets, like a lumophilic insectoid Pepé Le Pew. His heritage also allows for one of the funnier gags wherein Mothman, Danny and Liz go to a British “Mexican” restaurant and Mothman is utterly horrified by the atrocities described as “tacos” on the menu.

The palette of hot, supersaturated colours is toned down by the use of more subdued tones for the night scenes, and while the character animation is not especially winning, neither is it annoying like too many other cartoon features these days.

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