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As the sun pours through thick glass, aged hands write the tale of a young man with a dream. Joshua, an inhabitant of a world of colonies built on flying islands of trees, longs to fly under his own power. Before he can test his make-shift aeroplane, a huge sky-whale with sharp teeth destroys his entire colony, and the now orphaned Joshua must find a home, and salvation, among the Aero-Troopers.

Even without Mark Hamill's warm narration, it would be obvious that those hands reflected in the window belong to a much older Joshua. But what we should really focus on here is another young man with a dream: Terry Izumi.

A former Imagineer, Izumi spent time sculpting Disney collectibles and doing art direction on videogames. Eventually, he put together a small team of his own to create a computer-animated film. Here's the rub: he did the whole thing on Apple Macintoshes. Not even Apple CEO's Steve Jobs' Pixar Studios does that. Yet.

Some might call it a mad dream, but Izumi pulled it off, and after shopping it around with a self-recorded soundtrack, attracted the attention of some top animation voice-over talent. The result is Aero-Troopers (occasionally subtitled The Nemeclous Crusade), a fantasy adventure that dips a toe into steampunk, but with a main goal of entertaining children.

In addition to narrating, Hamill serves as voice-director for the project, and pulled in many of his cohorts from Comic Book: The Movie. It may sound like Hamill does extra voice duty, too, but actually Jess Harnell does his Hamill imitation for the character called only "Mad Pirate" that still has a fairly large role.

Most of the film chronicles Joshua's trials to become an Aero-Trooper and avenge his people. That may sound a bit bloodthirsty, but that flying whale turns out to actually be a huge mechanical device. The actual violence is done in a circumspect way, with the majority of the film focusing more on the everyday experience of these people living in a world that apparently has no land. Izumi has thought out this environment in great detail, dropping little tidbits throughout the story that also make it clear he has more to tell.

Though the young boy becoming a man (eventually) takes center stage, younger viewers may be just as drawn in by his teacher, Qyun (Daran Norris). Izumi's script makes a passing reference to Qyun being not actually human (and it may be the name of his race), using the character as the moral center of the story. It is Qyun's philosophies that run through Joshua's head at every turn, and as another character Nora (E.G. Dailey) points out, also give the boy strange syntax. Though it has to be purely coincidence, Qyun actually resembles the man who voices him, though the character is lightyears away from Norris' most currently popular role as Cosmo on The Fairly Oddparents.

At its heart, the story is fairly simple, but it's clear that putting it together was not. The new vocal team brings a lot to the production, and the recent DVD release does not include any snippets of the previous track for comparison.

In fact, the DVD only offers Chapter Stops as an extra, a convenient feature to savor a few particularly well-done sequences. Aero-Troopers doesn't quite portray humanoids convincingly (Pixar really hasn't done that yet, either). In some places, admittedly, sequences look like they could just as easily fit in a videogame. But what it may lack in technical smoothness in places, Aero-Troopers makes up for in imagination.

Any time somebody offers that up, it's worth checking out.

Check Out Aero-Troopers at The Creative Light Store

Derek McCaw


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