The Madness of Love

March 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , )

Ahh, that crazy midsummer night. This time around, I’m using the BBC Shakespeare: The Animated Tales version as my introduction to the play. I have not yet re-read the text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (it’s been 20+ years since I last read it) so I cannot comment on how closely this version follows the text. I’m assuming that like the Romeo and Juliet episode, it’s pretty true to Shakespeare, just condensed.

A fair amount of the convolutions here are explained by a narrator. This helps set the stage and simplifies much of the action. In fact, it is so simple that my preschooler was spellbound. He loved this cartoon, and was literally watching silently for the entire half hour until the very last minute when he asked if it was almost over (it was!). This is a very colorful cel-animated cartoon. Extremely watchable for any age.

I enjoyed it very much. I was giggling through much of it. The animation is very funny and I feel like it focuses more on the humorous aspects of the play than the magical. Magic is a huge part of the plot, but in this version, it’s all quite farcical rather than mystical. There is a sort of 1960s flower power feel to the fairies and magical aspects. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s cute, yet not too cutesy.

The disk with A Midsummer Night’s Dream also has The Tempest and As You Like It. I did not watch them. This series of 12 animated, condensed plays is available on Netflix, so I plan to just get the disks again as I proceed through the other plays. Onward through the fog!

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Romeo and Juliet, Abridged… and Animated!

March 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

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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