dir. DEANE TAYLOR Ireland, France 2000 | 74 min
Deane Taylor (the art director of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas) takes children story as the subject for his individual directorial debut about a mysterious carnival situated in the magical space beyond the gate of time. Will the group of offsprings succeed in finding the way back and escaping the inhabitants of a dark labyrinth of the deserted carnival sights?
Deane Taylor is renowned as the lead art designer of Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas. The film Carnivale, although not directed by Burton, does carry the traditional attributes of his work, such as the fancy for deranged, abnormal or even paranormal characters, malicious humor and the tendency to see the darkness under the most polished facades, and the hypocrisy behind middle class morals. As a director Taylor served his apprenticeship in a few episodes of the American series Cow and Chicken, whose humor is based on the unconcealed stupidity of the characters and their mutual clashes, out of which the absurdity of the comical sprouts in a dialectic way. Another step was his co-directing of the feature length animated film Duck Ugly in a French-Irish co-production. The French production studio Millimages and the Irish Terraglyph Production studio had the prospect of long-term cooperation. Their second, and at the same time, last common project, was Carnivale, with Taylor already taking up the whole director's seat himself, and also writing a script based on the novel by Greg Haddrick, author of children's books.
In his directing debut, nevertheless, Taylor decided to benefit from the influence of the gloomy and dark Burton rather than to draw on the warm atmosphere of the original book or his experience with making the unobjectionable family film Duck Ugly.
The story opens as a group of children playing at the seashore is lured into a time gate and carried to a fascinating amusement park which provides all the joys and pleasures conceivable for a little kid. The children have a great time until they discover a "Burtonian" cold secret beyond the bright colors of the carousels and attractions. Unless they find a way to escape the space behind the gate quite quickly, they will be imprisoned there forever, turned into lifeless objects and frozen in time in the manner of the other glossy attractions of the strange amusement park. They make a desperate and feverish effort to run away; the way back however, is not as easy as the way up there. The children have to face many obstacles, from a phantasmal ghost train to a nightmarish freak cabaret...
Besides Deane Taylor, many artists of repute contributed to the making of the film; Helen Bonham, the life partner and muse of Tim Burton, and Hugh Laurie, supply the voices of characters in the film.
Deane Taylor is well-known thanks to the participation on Tim Burton's The Night Before Christmas as a chief designer. He became an independent director after he treined himself while working in the Tv series Cow and Chicken. The next step was the co-direction of a feature animation Duck Ugly, made in French-Irish co-production of the two studios Millimages and Terraglyph Production. The last of his collective projects is Carnivale.