Thunder and the House of Magic, 3D Blu-ray (2014)

Directors: Ben Stassen, Jeremie Degruson
Music: Ramin Djawadi & Selena Gomez
Studio: nWave Pictures/StudioCanal/ Shout! Factory SF 15333 (Combo Pack: feature in 3D & 2D on Blu-ray + DVD + digital copy, 2 discs) [9/30/14]
Video: anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9, 1080p HD color
Audio: DTS-HD MA & Dolby 5.1
Languages: English or French
Subtitles: English
Extras: Featurettes on: Origins, Character animation, Making of the soundtrack, Teaser, Theatrical trailer
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: *****

This is a most sucessful Belgian animated family feature based on an original story idea by Ben Stassen. The extras reveal that is was originally a 12-minute “4D” film for a ride experience (in addition to being in 3D, objects were hurled at viewers). It was expanded to feature length and made into this wonderful little film with original music by Ramin Djawadi, who now does major Hollywood productions.

Thunder is a young cat (but not a kitten) accidentally abandoned by a family in the process of moving. He stumbles into a ramshackle mansion filled with an array of automatons and gadgets, plus a grouchy rabbit and little mouse who are not at first willing to have the cat come in. The mansion is owned by a retired old magician who still puts on shows for sick children in the hospital. His scheming nephew gets him to sign a Power of Attorney when the old man is accidently injured and then puts the mansion up for sale while he’s in the hospital.

The nephew’s hilariious attempts to show it to possible buyers, and the efforts of the animals and automatons to make visitors think it is a haunted house and scare them away are great fun. The nephew’s allergy to cats aids the new friends to join forces to save their home. It’s a great tale with plenty happening, great characterisations, and compelling 3D effects – with gumballs, arrows, swords, wrecking balls, and all coming out to get you in 3D. This should please youngsters and adults equally well.

—John Sunier