AFF Review: Flatland 2: Sphereland


Sphereland still photo


Austin filmmaker Dano Johnson along with producers Jeffrey Travis and Seth Caplan are the inventors behind the animated family-friendly film Flatland 2: Sphereland. It's a follow-up to Flatland: The Movie -- both take kids on journeys into alternate dimensions with heroine Hex (Kristen Bell) and her trusty and mathematically inclined sidekick Puncto (voiced by Danny Pudi). Based on Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, these movies tell the stories of dwellers who live in a two-dimensional world with no knowledge or interest in dimensions behond their own.

In Flatland 2: Sphereland, young scientist Hex encounters more mathematical mysteries as she and her sidekick race to save a mission into Flatland's "outer space" and discover the true shape of the universe. Because Flatland exists in a world where the only dimensions known are length and width, Hex's felllow inhabitants don't believe of the existence of a third dimension. However, it is Puncto who discovers an anomaly and seeks assistance from Hex, who is ostracized for her unorthodox ideas of another dimension.

As the pair investigate the anomaly, they encounter a familiar face from the first installment -- the third-dimensional resident Spherius (Michael York), who escorts them far beyond their 2D existence into a universe beyond comprehension and imagination of other Flatlanders.

The art direction and animation of Flatland 2: Sphereland paints a vibrant universe for the cast of multi-dimensional characters. The pacing is a bit quick for younger minds, but keeps the story moving along as viewers are engaged by the adventures of Hex and Puncto. The original music by Kaz Boyle fittingly supports the sensory other-worldliness experience of this film. In addition to the leads, the voice cast includes local actors as well as stars Kate Mulgrew as Oversphere and Danica McKellar as Aero.

Johnson has considerable experience creating educational and entertaining content, having had his start at The University of Texas at Austin's Student Television Station, where he participated in every stage of the process from writing to post-production. As a senior at UT, Johnson went on to create the awardwinning educational video Captain Can Takes on Garbage for the City of Austin's recycling program.

Flatland garnered success due to its strong math and science appeal for educators, and the sequel Flatland 2: Sphereland should experience similar success due to the inventiveness -- although more so for older students. As I watched the movie, I was reminded of stories of adults attempting to retake the SAT and failing miserably, and some of the movie's mathematical theories and principles are a bit heady for elementary grade levels.

Still, younger children will find the colorful characters and visual imagery fun and fascinating, and adults will be amused by the humor. Educators will definitely love the continued high quality educational goal of sparking curiosity and engaging young minds in scientific inquiry through this colorful and entertaining film.

Local connections: Most of the cast and crew are from Austin, and supporting voice actors also include Pictures of Superheroes cast members John Merriman and Danu Uribe of The Intergalactic Nemesis, as well as Curtis Luciani (Flatland: The Movie).