Despite being the home of heavy-hitter animated films like Happy Feet and Mary & Max, there’s precious few Australian animated films
being produced. There’s a fairly good reason why too: it’s bloody hard for any
animation studio in the world to compete with the Pixar’s and Dreamworks’ of
the world, especially when saddled with budgets that wouldn’t even cover those
companies advertising campaigns. Director Ricard Cussó and writer Peter Ivan
(he of Oddball fame) take on the
challenge of making something that might be able to compete with those films,
with the resulting film being The Wishmas
A long time ago, the animals of the world were under threat
of extinction (shown here as a giant beast that consumes all), and four young
critters joined together to wish the extinction away. Flash forward to the sanctuary
where predators and prey live in harmony, not eating each other despite how
delicious they may appear. Each year, the titular ‘Wishmas’ tree grants each inhabitant
one wish by way of special flowers that grow. However, if the last flower is
plucked, then the tree will die and the sanctuary will be thrown into turmoil.
Enter Kerry (Miranda Tapsell), a young ring tail possum who
has her one wish (to see snow), and can’t help but want another. Sure enough,
she takes the last flower and throws her community into turmoil, so with the frill-neck
lizard leader, Yarra (Ross Noble), and her sister Petra (Kate Murphy), in tow,
they head off to find the sister Wishmas tree and restore order.
Look, first things first, The
Wishmas Tree is not perfect. There are clear budgetary constraints that
inhibit it from reaching the visual inventiveness that Pixar films regularly
set the benchmark for, but if you meet the film on the level it’s operating on,
then you’ll have a good time.
For me, I found the bright and naturalistic characters and
landscapes exciting and entertaining. It sure is a treat to get to see
Australian animals on screen again. The central character designs are pulled
from the ‘big eye’ school of characters, making them intentionally endearing
and cute, and while that can quite often be twee, it’s employed to create an engaging
effect here. The joyfully expressive critters will no doubt entertain the kid
market that The Wishmas Tree is angling
for, even if some of the late danger-designs might cause a few nervous kids in
When paired with a voice team that has Miranda Tapsell and
Ross Noble in the mix, these characters are dutifully brought to life. It’s
interesting that Ross Noble is putting on a voice that hides everything that
makes Ross Noble, well, Ross Noble. If you didn’t know it was him, you’d be
certain that it was a Barry Humphries-esque figure voicing the creature. It’s
an interesting voice choice that I’m not sure entirely works.
On the other hand, Miranda Tapsell’s luminous vocal talent provides
most of the films energy, proving that a little Tapsell goes a very long way.
It’s clear she’s having a ball voicing Kerry, and the film is better for having
It’s then a shame that the script doesn’t give her and Noble
enough to work with. Jokes are effective enough, but are straight from the
juvenile joke-book, with your routine poo and zit jokes being rolled out for an
easy laugh. And yeah, they do get a cheap laugh, but the surrounding dialogue
and narrative struggles to bring life to the film. There’s a reason writers
rooms exist, and it’s to help pepper basic plots with vibrancy and energy.
As it is, Peter Ivan’s script (which IMDb credits as having ‘additional
writing by Ryan Greaves) is the films biggest let down. The visual
inventiveness and spiritedly vocal performances go a long way to accommodating
the various weak spots within the script, and it’s here that little ones might
start to get a little tired as the film nears the sixty-minute mark.
It doesn’t help that the plot is a little muddled and overstacked.
At once, this is a film about the threat of extinction, but then, it’s also
about conformity and not rocking the boat, but equally it’s about acceptance
and tolerance. By necessity, kids films need simplicity, and as an adult, you
should be able to walk away from the film with the clear message in mind so you’re
prepared to deal with any oncoming questions that may arise from the kid in
your life, but The Wishmas Tree unfortunately
doesn’t have that.
However, given the recent bushfire devastation, this is a
timely celebration of Australia’s wildlife, recognising the varieties of
creatures we have and how important they are to the ecosystem that makes up our
landscape. Kids might, understandably, be concerned about the world they see
around them, and hearing stories about 1 billion animals killed might raise a
lot of concerns in their mind. The
Wishmas Tree doesn’t have a solution to this problem, but it does at least
recognise that a team effort is required to stave of extinction.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the bonkers side-characters that appear on Kerry’s journey. A blink and you’ll miss it ‘Trash Panda and Bin Chicken’ cop show looks positively hilarious and desperately in need of its own spin-off show/movie. Late in the piece, the mythic drop bears appear like furious ewoks, and for me, their presence brought about many memorably hilarious moments. The horribly disgusting cane toads are also quite entertaining. I just wish that all of these elements featured in the film even more. Maybe we’ll get to see more of these characters in further ‘Tales from Sanctuary City’ fables.
Which brings me back to the budgetary constraints that are
placed on many Australian animated films. I’ll gladly admit that maybe I’m more
accommodating than others, and that I’m more accepting than most viewers may
be, but there is enough spirit and energy that I had a good time watching The Wishmas Tree. I recognise that may
not be a ringing endorsement, but I do genuinely hope that more Australian kids
stories get told, and additionally, more Australian animated films get made. Just
a tip, next time, get a few more voices in to polish up that script.
Miranda Tapsell, Ross Noble, Kate Murphy
Writers: Peter Ivan, (additional writing by Ryan Greaves)
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.