I have a secret. When my son brings me another Scooby story to read at bedtime and I know it would take me 10 or 15 minutes and I don’t want to spend that much time on it… I have a secret method for shortening it. I read the first sentence on every page and then a random sentence here or there. The story goes much faster and the kids hardly ever notice. They’re more interested in looking at the pictures anyway. They still get the gist of the story and everyone’s happy.
The BBC basically did this with their series Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. I’m sure they were a bit more selective and careful about which lines they kept, but they take each play and condense it to a half hour. They use Shakespeare’s language along with a narrator who sets the scene, introduces characters, clarifies action, etc. They’re well done.
I thought the animation was interesting. It’s kind of artsy and some of the characters are a bit odd-looking (for example, the upper part of the nurse’s face is brown, but the lower part is light). But this didn’t detract at all from the film.
I would not recommend this version of Romeo and Juliet for very young children. My kids were not interested at all. My preschooler left the room immediately. My second grader stayed for about five minutes before saying he was done. The language was the barrier, I think. Note (especially if you show it to small kids) a bit more (animated) nudity during Romeo and Juliet’s night of bliss scene than you might expect in a cartoon.
The disk with Romeo and Juliet also has Othello and The Winter’s Tale. I was talking on the phone when the other two episodes were playing, but all seemed very good. Romeo and Juliet and Othello are cel animation and The Winter’s Tale is stop-action puppetry.
I believe these Animated Tales (there are twelve plays and they are available on Netflix) would be wonderful to use with high school age kids… maybe middle school, too. They would be really good for giving an introduction to a play. I may even watch them first as I move on through the plays. A half hour of easy viewing and you definitely get a solid feel for the plot, in Shakespeare’s words (another secret… I turn on the English subtitles because I get more out of the dialog when I read along).
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