Monday, March 31, 2008

PETER & THE WOLF

PETER & THE WOLF won the Oscar for Animated Short this year. It was run on PBS's GREAT PERFORMANCES last week. I hope it reruns, because it is a fantastic piece of stop-motion animation. Needless to say, the music is wonderful. Prokofiev wrote a brilliant piece of music that just happens to explain the concepts of orchestration to children (and, in passing, also explains leitmotivic development).

Unfortunately, the narration is written for the youngest of children, and not only gets in the way of the music, it talks down to the audience. On top of that, the original story isn't very good. This film quite smartly dumped the narration and used the visuals of the animation to tell the story instead. The character animation is absolutely astounding, perhaps some of the best I've seen in stop-motion. They completely rewrote the ending to make the story much more intelligent and involving. It's a little more scary for the young children, but (MILD SPOILER) I think kids need to know that something that's dead STAYS dead.

In order to fill out the hour, there is a "making of" video that is almost as interesting as the film itself. It took them 5 years to make the film, and they used a lot of seamless visual effects to smooth out the problems with animation, while remaining true to the look of the stop-motion animation.

I don't think this is scheduled to run again soon, but if you get the chance, check it out. It's well worth it.
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