“The Secret of the Magic Gourd” is a magical film from China that’s geared toward children With a mixture of live action and animation, directors John Chu and Frankie Chung manage to harmoniously blend the worlds of main character Raymond and a magical gourd he finds in a pond. With stunning animation, great design, and a lovely story concept from children’s author Tianyi Zhang, “The Secret of the Magic Gourd” is a nice film for the family. In the English version of the film, Disney brought in Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”) as the voice of The Magic Gourd.
Raymond is a dreamer, spending his days dreaming of operating a space vehicle and going on rescue missions. While his imagination is active and always growing, his school work is far from productive. He can’t seem to focus enough to study his math, much to the dismay of his math group and teacher. Whenever he tries to offer an opinion, his friends laugh at him and tell him that his ideas won’t work. Discouraged by the reaction of his peers but still motivated by his own desire to impress his family and friends, Raymond returns home where he overhears his grandmother telling his little sister the story of the magic gourd. According to her tale, the magic gourd can grant you any wish you could every possibly have. Raymond says it’s just a story, nothing more, and he goes up to his room where he falls asleep at his desk.
Shortly after, Raymond sets off to go fishing and on his way he encounters a flock of birds that guide him to a special pond. There, Raymond fishes out an usual little orange gourd who has magical powers. The gourd is a fairly typical animated character with a lot of quirky jokes, but there’s something about him that makes you feel he needs Raymond even more than Raymond needs him. Before long, the gourd grants Raymond’s first wish. All kinds of fish are swimming in the air above him, circling overhead for Raymond to pick and choose as he pleases. This scene is one of the most beautiful scenes in the film, as the animation, rich background, and colors are incredible. While Raymond couldn’t be happier with the way things are going with the gourds help, he soon realizes the gourd is far from perfect.
While the gourd does give Raymond what he asks for, the gourd also grants things Raymond thinks, but doesn’t wish for. At a chess game, Raymond says, “I will eat your knight for lunch” which the gourd interprets as: Raymond is hungry. Before you know it, Raymond’s mouth is full of chess pieces. Despite the gourds misunderstandings, he does help Raymond with a lot of things like learning how to get up on time, getting organized, making the swim team, even the answers to his math problems. With the amazement of his teacher, friends and family, Raymond becomes more and more determined to succeed at everything. Raymond becomes greedy with the gourd’s power and begins wishing for anything he wants, and ends up getting in some serious trouble.
When everything goes awry, Raymond must learn the ultimate lesson—that getting everything you wish for isn’t always the best answer. After all, the gourd tells Raymond that he was only reflecting his hearts desire…even the bad things. “The Secret of the Magic Gourd” offers a wonderful story for children and adults that reminds us that working to achieve your dreams is more meaningful then having them handed to you.
VIDEO: "The Secret of the Magic Gourd" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Disney. The presentation quality of this mix of live-action and animation is generally excellent, as sharpness and detail are above-average during the majority of the feature - while most scenes appeared crisp and detailed, a few looked mildly softer than the rest. While some slight edge enhancement appeared, most of the film looked free of such concerns. Colors looked vibrant and rich, with spot-on saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation (available in dubbed English or Cantonese or Mandarin) sounded just fine, considering the material. While surrounds occasionally chimed in to offer some mild ambience and occasional effects, the majority of the sound was forward-heavy. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: “Bloopers” The bloopers are staged bloopers, not actual bloopers. They all involve the gourd having some kind of trouble during the filming of his scenes.
“Behind The Scenes With The Gourd”
Interviews with Director/Producer John Chu, Director Frankie Chi Hang Chung, and Stanley Cheung (Walt Disney International Executive VP-Greater China), and more discuss several aspects of the film including the original story, the development of characters, picking the right actors, the musical score, and the experience of mixing live action and animation. There’s lots of behind the scenes footage that explorers how this was done as well as other aspects of making the film. At about 28 minutes, this is a wonderful addition to the film.
“Games & Activities: Too Many Toys!”
For this interactive game, you help Raymond get rid of the toys the gourd brought home before his dad returns home.
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ALSO: Music video.
Final Thoughts: A sweet, visually rich tale with a nice message and fine performances, "Secret of the Magic Gourd" is an enjoyable family feature. The DVD offers very fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B