I thought I ought to see at least one Korean animation as part of the recent film festival, so I took pot luck with the one that best fitted my Saturday schedule and ended up watching Pororo to the Cookie Castle.
In the foyer of the Odeon Covent Garden was a 4-foot high penguin, beside which Korean kiddies were having their photos taken. Cute.
A little bit of searching on the internet reveals that Pororo is quite an institution. It’s a children’s TV programme, lasting about 7 minutes, a sort of Magic Roundabout or Captain Pugwash but without, on the evidence of this feature-length Christmas special, the undertones of drugs and obscure sexual practices which give those latter programmes a bit of adult interest. Pororo’s had 2 series made, but at 52 episodes per series the Korean 3D animators are certainly kept busy.
To be honest, I was rather wary of going to this film. Unlike the live-action films in this festival, the animations were dubbed. I wasn’t looking forward to the corny American voices the like of which completely ruin the Studio Ghibli dubbed versions. Fortunately though the voices seemed very unobtrusive, and I could enjoy the film without cringing with embarrassment.
Pororo wears the flying hat and goggles, I think, because he wishes he could fly, and he lives with his chums in the snowy wastes (though maybe it was only snowy because this is a Christmas special). His chums include a polar bear, a beaver, a fox, and something which initially looks like a hippo but is in fact a dragon. Anyway, you get the picture. The plot involves the gallant crew helping Father Christmas to get his Christmas Cookies ready for delivery on Christmas Eve, without the stock being substituted by a wicked chocolate-maker who wants to take over the world. Or something.
It’s a harmless (and actually rather fun) 70 minutes. There’s nothing particularly Korean about it: in fact it seems aimed squarely at the international market, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It deserves to succeed. It would make a nice occasional change from The Snowman for family viewing during the festive season. Good luck to Pororo and his plucky friends.