It takes a lot to make the animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox look comparatively slick and polished. Even the cheap stop-motion of Adults Swim’s Robot Chicken can’t match the crudeness of A Town Called Panic. However, what the film might lack in sheen and gloss, it makes up for in the cute and charming department. This little Belgian clay-animation packs an admirable measure of sheer joy joy into the course of its 75-minute running time.

The town of Panic exists in a child’s uninhibited imagination. It’s populated by toy figures that are still attached to a base (like those green toy soldiers). The tale centres around three toy friends: a horse, a cowboy and an Indian. Horse is the most responsible– compared to the not-so-bright Cowboy and Indian– and he assumes the role of their guardian. On the other hand, Cowboy and Indian spend their days avoiding– unsuccessfully – getting into trouble. Other characters reside in the town of Panic , including a policeman, a postman and a farmer; kind of an unintentional and surreal parallel to the Village People.

The catalyst of their newest adventures arrives when Cowboy and Indian find out that they’ve forgotten to buy a present for Horse’s birthday. In haste, they decide to build him a barbecue stand and accidentally order 50 million bricks for the job. They don’t know what to do with all the excess bricks; so they just rack them on top of their house, and come night-time, the weight of these bricks brings the house down. Now they have to rebuild the house from scratch; but again, this simple task proves to be more challenging than it at first seems.

All efforts fail miserably, with an outlandish domino effect, causing situations to become ever more ridiculous. Even though the three toys end up in unexpected places, their adventure never fails to be highly engrossing.

A Town Called Panic is not concerned with telling a cohesive story or teaching a valuable lesson. It’s more of an exercise in lunacy that goes far in its weirdness. The manic inventiveness is the main attraction here. The animation’s visuals are stylish and truly amazing; and although the character design is primitive, the clay cast emotes feeling without needing to change so much as a facial expression.

Much of the humour in A Town Called Panic is visual: Horse goes to bed, but not before taking his shoehorns off, and when he does get into bed, he just stands on top of it. Clever jokes like this occur frequently throughout the film, not in the same volume as in Toy Story; but there is nonetheless something special about this charming and innocent little film.