As the All Star Comedy Show and Chelsea FC have recently proven, throwing together a host of star names is not enough for a recipe for success. This new animated comedy features such luminaries as Julia Davis, Simon Pegg and Amelia Bullmore. It’s the creation of Steve Coogan (along with Henry Normal) and, after unpromising Tony Ferrino-like beginnings, it soon transformed into a warped Alan Partridge.
A group of animals have been doctored, giving them human characteristics including speech, so they believe themselves to be humans. They reside in a single room at the Vivi-Sec UK laboratory where they all yearn to be chosen to go through the door marked London they believe leads to a life of fame and fortune, but in fact it is an exit to the experimentation lab where they will be cut up and discarded.
The deliberately amateurish animation employed here, akin to South Park and Monkey Dust, is effective for this kind of adult cartoon. The patchwork backdrops of vivid colours and distorted photography also works well but the dark subject matter and eerie locations initially seem to be a pallid disguise for the lack of jokes.
The mood is soon lightened, however, by the inspired presence of a rabbit that has had as much human brain forced into his skull as possible. As a result, all he can say are scripted phrases from the lexicon of computer technicians such as “Through to support, this is Niall speaking” and “I’d just like you to open up Start Menu for me, please”.
It’s blackly comic sparks like this that indicate there is more to I Am Not An Animal than first meets the eye. When it becomes apparent it is a caustic satire of Big Brother and the increasing vacuous celebrity-hungry nature of television and society in general, the humour materialises as if by magic. It all adds up. The dubious scientific merits of vivisection and Big Brother equates as does the gradual “eviction” of the animals from the safety of the lab into the big, wide world.
It’s in this world where their delusions of fame are soon dashed – Big Brother contestants sell their story to a tabloid and are then forgotten, while the animals endure a metaphor of that fate when strapped to a chair and torn to pieces before being flushed away. The only anomaly is that all of God’s creatures are less deserving of internment in a vivisection lab than any Big Brother contestant – and Davina McCall.
The main drawback with this comedy was the subtlety of the central gag. Taken as a straightforward comedy, I Am Not An Animal is only sporadically funny, and as a result may lose a huge amount of casual viewers who don’t perceive the humour immediately. But if you bear with it and get swallowed up in the remarkably sharp running jokes you may soon be rewarded with a modern classic.