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“Shane Acker’s 9” (Blu-ray)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Universal/Focus Features
Release Date:
Special Features:

Original “9” short,”9: The Long and Short of It”, “The Look of 9”, “Acting Out”, feature length commentary track with director Shane Acker, animation director Joe Ksander, head of story Ryan O’Loughlin and editor Nick Kenway


Set in a parallel post apocalyptic universe where all of humanity has been killed in a war with intelligent robots, “9” takes us on the imaginative journey of 9 a ragdoll creature consisting of burlap, gears and zippers. When 9 (Elijah Wood) first awakens it’s been quite some time since the apocalypse. As he investigates the rubble of Paris, 9 is attacked by a cyborg creature that looks a bit like a tiger. It fights him over the talisman he discovered in the “First Room” where he first came to life. Saved by 2 (Martin Landau) another rag doll just like him, 9 discovers eight (Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Riley, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly and Fred Tatasicore) other rag doll creatures just like him. 9 must obtain the talisman to destroy the evil creatures that threaten their world. ***

Based on Shane Acker’s 11 minute Oscar winning UCLA thesis project (go Bruins!), “9” creates a mesmerizing world with creatures that reflect elements of humanity without being human. Produced for under $40 million the “9” is an amazing achievement and quite moving as well. Acker has informed this film with as much creativity as he did his original short. ***

Sadly “9” was somewhat overlooked when it was released this past Fall which is disappointing because it’s easily as good as something Pixar made with just as much individual vision. The feature has been in production more or less for the last three years and it’s unfortunately this didn’t find a larger audience in theaters. On the other hand, the advantage of home video is that we can finally appreciate this fine film without all the background noise of the other features that were released around the same time. Kudos to directors Tim Burton & Timur Bekmanbetov along with producers Jinko Gotoh & Jim Lemley for championing Acker’s original short and also for allowing him to develop his vision for the feature with writer Pamela Pettler. ---

Image & Sound:

“9” looks marvelous with a crisp, colorful Blu-ray transfer that nicely captures the rich look of the original theatrical presentation of the film. Detail from the burlap “skin” of the creatures in the film is richly textured and has plenty of nice detail. ***

The DTS HD audio sounds marvelous. It’s as dense in its own way as the visuals in the film. Dialogue always remains consistently clear and the HD lossless soundtrack nicely compliments the marvelous score. ---

Special Features:

We get an informative commentary track with director Shane Acker, story editor Ryan O’Louglin, editor Nick Kenway and animation director Joe Ksander sharing quite a bit of information about the creature process for the film. ***

“9: The Long and the Short of It” runs about 17 minutes and appears in HD. This behind-the-scenes featurette gives plenty of information about the creation of Acker’s original short and how it morphed into a feature length motion picture. My pick for Best Animated Film at this year’s Oscars is “9” which puts just about every other CGI feature film released this year to shame. ***

“On Tour with Shane Acker” lets us take a glimpse behind-the-scenes at Starz Animation where the film was made. ***

“The Look of 9” features the stars (especially Wood) , Acker and other production crew discussing the world that “Shane Acker’s 9” takes place in. It looks (based on seeing the ruins of Notre Dame) that the film takes place in post World War I Paris. Acker also discusses how he borrowed his creatures from elements of Greek mythology for his film using these icons to help create these other worldly creepy creatures for the film. ***

“Acting Out” allows the animators discuss how they integrate their “acting” into creating these creatures since the voice performance is only one small part of the presentation. ***

Finally we get deleted scenes, trailers for other Universal films and the original 11 minute short “9” which demonstrates that truly everything for Acker’s world in the feature film is at least hinted at in this marvelous short made as part of his Master’s Thesis at UCLA. UCLA is notorious for pushing the “one person, one film” policy (they even did it when I was there making shorts); that doesn’t mean that you can’t involve other people as production crew members or assisting you in various capacities but it truly does rest on the shoulders and features the vision of one individual. Clearly Acker had that vision with the original 11 minute version of “9” and it was strong enough with enough thought and background to enable him to hang a feature film around much of the same concepts. ---

Final Words:

Although there were other heavy weight talents involved in helping to usher “Shane Acker’s 9” to the screen, this is truly Shane’s vision from beginning to end. Everyone on the production crew from the writer to the composer of the score clearly took their cues from Shane in trying to accurate capture the vision that he so beautifully realized with the original 11 minute short from 2005. ***

“Shane Acker’s 9” is a brilliantly realized CGI animated feature. I’m hoping that this mature, imaginative film beats the other animated flicks it might be up against for this year’s Oscar. This film richly deserves it. ***

Parents should be warned that his IS rated PG-13 for good reason—it’s creepy and the characters are often in peril. It might disturb some little ones. ***

Highly recommended.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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