Animated movies are huge, expensive undertakings, so due to economies of scale, and despite having a wealth of animation talent locally, we don’t often see uniquely Australian stories hit the medium. The Wishmas Tree aims to change that.
It’s a tale of adventure, sisterhood and anthropomorphised animals, which centres around the titular Wishmas Tree. While it may sound it, this has nothing to do with Christmas, rather it’s a tree that legend tells us grew from a seed that fell to Earth from the skies, and led to the creation of a sanctuary for animals – all animals, no matter how icky (or yummy) they may be.
We soon meet young ringtail possum Kerry (voiced by Miranda Tapsell), who is a budding Irwinesque adventurer. Her elder sister Petra is more of the status quo type – as siblings they seem to be worlds apart. Speaking of worlds apart, it is said that outside of Sanctuary City it’s one nasty place, filled with peril and just generally bad stuff. Yet Kerry wishes to escape the shackles of her home and explore this no-go zone. Through a thoughtless and selfish act, she’ll soon get her chance…
Cue an adventure to save Sanctuary City that also stars a sagely frill-necked lizard named Yarra (voiced by Ross Noble) and, of course, his trusty boggle-eyed Stick, along with various other Aussie creatures ranging from the bleurghy cane toad Augustus through to the “Aww!”-inspiring drop bear Bernard. Oh, and to top off the unbridled Aussieness, there are red dogs. Well OK, red-eyed dogs.
Really, The Wishmas Tree is a universal tale that just so happens to have a decidedly Australian cast of characters – and that may prove to be its ticket to success beyond our shores. It’s central theme of making good something that you stuffed up, along with the aforementioned focus on the bonds of sisterhood, will appeal to any kid, anywhere.
Parents should be aware that there are a few scenes that head into dark and scary territory, but none are worse than the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3, and that movie somehow left our local ratings board with a G.
Technically, the animation – both 2D and, for the most part, 3D – looks good, while not reaching the dizzying heights of competition from the likes of Illumination and, of course Pixar. But then looking through the credits and seeing several people pulling off more than one role in production, we think it fair to say that this was likely made for the equivalent of the Disney-backed Pixar’s weekly lunch bill. That’s a compliment to the team behind The Wishmas Tree, for they’ve given us a rollicking animated adventure that its creators can be fair dinkum proud of.
In cinemas: February 27, 2020
Starring: The voices of Miranda Tapsell, Ross Noble, Kate Murphy
Directed by: Ricard Cussó