Harry Nilsson’s Pointed Storytelling & Songcraft

Grammy Award winner Harry Nilsson’s songs come to life on the screen in The Point, a charming animated film that first aired in 1971 on ABC. A songwriter and singer revered by John Lennon, Nilsson’s erratic music career was on the rise when he came up with a simple story intended for children.

Animated by Academy Award winner Fred Wolf (Free To Be…You & Me, The Flintstones) and narrated by Ringo Starr, the all-ages fairy tale preaches a message of accepting each person’s individuality in overcoming differences. It is a sweet and direct message bolstered by Nilsson’s memorable songwriting.

Years ago there was a place called The Land of the Point, because everything there has a point, including its citizens. Except the young Oblio (Mike Lookinland from The Brady Bunch), who is the first person born with a round head. Missing a point, Oblio and his trusty dog Arrow are banished to the Pointless Forest. The pair soon learn a lesson that everything has a point as Nilsson’s idiosyncratic songs tell their amusing adventures.

… a sweet and direct message bolstered by Nilsson’s memorable songwriting

In late 1970, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson released his groundbreaking album, “The Point!”, a dense concept album loaded with catchy tunes such as “Me and My Arrow.” According to Nilsson himself, “I looked at the trees and realized all the leaves came to points and even the branches came to points. I thought, ‘Oh! Everything has a point, and even if it doesn’t, there’s a point to it.'”

Produced in 1970, the animated film version of The Point! first aired in 1971 as an ABC Movie of the Week. Originally narrated by Dustin Hoffman, former Beatle Ringo Starr did his own narration for the special. The special became something of a cult classic, fondly remembered by a generation of children for its catchy songs and simple message.

Despite owning the original album by Nilsson, I somehow dodged watching this film over the years. Knowing it only through Nilsson’s songs, and without any nostalgic affection impacting my view, The Point works like a bizarre piece of Pop Art aimed at children.

Video

Keep your expectations in check when it comes to The Point’s 1080P video. Yes, a new 2K film transfer has been struck from a 16mm print for the 1970 animation special, preserving its original 1.37 aspect ratio. However, the 16mm film elements used are in sub-par condition. Gritty with overly dense grain reproduction, this isn’t picture-perfect animation. Think the original Peanuts’ specials, if they were never restored.

According to MVD’s own Eric Wilkinson, “Considering the condition of the elements we had – while a complete restoration proved to be unfeasible – the end result is the best the film has ever looked…”

Arriving on a BD-50, the main feature runs 75 minutes. Encoded in high-bitrate AVC, this is soft video with occasional damage visible in the print. Primary colors really don’t pop with any vibrancy, leaving a flat and dull color palette. Fans will likely be happy The Point is finally available on Blu-ray, but videophiles will find this transfer somewhat disappointing.

Audio

The included audio is mildly lacking for a number of reasons. Not for Harry Nilsson’s brilliant songwriting and singing, heard in such classic tracks as “Me And My Arrow” and “Think About Your Troubles” on the soundtrack. MVD includes a disastrous “surround” remix in 5.0 Dolby Digital loaded with enough slapback echo and reverb to ruin any listening enjoyment. It particularly distorts dialogue and no serious listener/fan should consider it a viable option.

Better sounding is the included mono audio in 2.0 Dolby Digital. A bit thin on top but with enough dynamics for the vibrant musical soundtrack, featuring orchestration by George Tipton and songs by Nilsson. It offers decent fidelity and generally solid dialogue reproduction. Ringo sounds like Ringo narrating the story.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the missing original broadcast audio with narration by Dustin Hoffman in place of Ringo. Many original fans heard The Point with Hoffman’s voice narrating the story. Its absence is disappointing.

Extras

Listed as #20 in MVD’s Rewind Collection, The Point comes to Blu-ray with a mini-fold-out poster and slipcover. Labeled as an “ultimate edition,” The Point gets a whole slew of special features on top of older featurettes.

The BD is coded for all regions.

The Kid’s Got a Point: An Interview with Mike Lookinland (17:14 in HD)

That Old Guy Wrote The Point: A Conversation with Screenwriter Norm Lenzer (15:01 in HD)

Everybody’s Got a Point: Kiefo Nilsson and Bobby Halvorson on Adapting the Point (15:51 in HD) – Harry’s son gets interviewed filling in some of the blanks about his father making the project.

Nilsson on Screen (61:13 in HD) – An extensive documentary from biographer Alyn Shipton and Nilsson’s close associates such as Perry Botkin on Harry Nilsson’s various film projects. Nilsson worked for Paramount at one time. Nicely covers The Point and other projects, delving into Nilsson’s songwriting and other contributions.

Original Claymation Animation Sequence (02:52 in HD) – A Claymation short that inspired the film. Worked on by Dean of Jan & Dean musical fame.

Pitching the Point (03:37 in SD) – Archival featurette

Making the Point (13:08 in SD) – Archival featurette

Legacy of the Point (06:04 in SD) – Archival featurette

Who Is Harry Nilsson? (03:52 in SD) – Archival featurette

The Point Trailer (02:13 in SD)

Getting Even With Dad Trailer (02:42 in SD)

Savannah Smiles Trailer (02:55 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Point
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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An animated special directed at younger audiences with a universal message of acceptance from the early Seventies, primarily remembered today for its wonderful songs penned by music legend Harry Nilsson.

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