DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Shakespeare: The Animated Tales
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales
Other // Unrated // July 6, 2004
List Price: $79.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted August 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Rent It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The movie

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. I admit that the title of this collection made me raise my eyebrows, especially when I learned that the "tales" are all 25-minute pieces. Bite-sized Shakespeare! Is this a respectable, if off-beat, handling of the Bard's work, or is it yet another concession to the limited attention span of the MTV generation?

The twelve tales that are presented here represent a broad cross-section of Shakespeare's work. We get tragedies (Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet), comedies (A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night), history (Richard III) and two that don't easily fit in a genre (The Tempest, A Winter's Tale). Each is animated by different artists, with techniques that range from cel animation to stop-motion puppets to paint on glass. The result is a truly varied assortment of miniature plays.

It's no easy task to condense plays that would have run close to four hours in the original to a mere twenty-five minutes, and the tales here display varying degrees of success in making the adaptation. Some, like Romeo and Juliet, work reasonably well with the story pared down to its fundamental elements, while others, like The Tempest, end up feeling confusing and fractured. Not surprisingly, it's the stories with the strongest basic narrative impulse that fare the best here.

You might ask what's left that can be rightfully called "Shakespeare" when the play is condensed this far. In fact, the makers of the Animated Tales have shown quite a bit of respect for the original material. While the voiceover summaries of key plot and character points (which are essential, since so much is omitted) have been written specifically for these tales, all the actual dialogue within the tales is the genuine article, taken directly from the plays. That's what makes these little pieces work to the extent that they do: it's bite-sized Shakespeare indeed, but it's still recognizably Shakespeare.

As for the overall effect... well, as someone who loves Shakespeare, I think I'll stick to full-length adaptations of his work. These little pieces are interesting more in their ambition, and as a showcase for their animation, than as actual, successful short films. However, they're probably just the ticket for educators or parents who are interested in exposing young viewers to the greatest playwright in the English language; they're reasonably accessible for a younger audience without being patronizing. It's always a good thing to be familiar with stories that provide so many cultural references, and it's likely that someone who was intrigued by one of these stories might go on to watch longer versions or read the original. Adult viewers who are aficionados of animation will also find this set of interest, since it showcases quite a diverse group of styles.

The DVD

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales is a four-disc set, with three tales on each DVD. Each disc has its own plastic keepcase, and all four fit inside a paper slipcase.

Video

All the tales appear in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which I'm assuming is the correct ratio. The image looks quite good overall, with a clean print that's free of noise or flaws for the most part, and that features bright, vibrant colors. Some compression artifacts do crop up at times, but on the whole the tales look quite nice.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack varies in quality from one tale to the next. Some sound perfectly fine, with reasonably clear dialogue, although it's never as crisp as I'd wish it to be;. Other tales have distinctly sub-par sound quality, with the voices sounding muffled, dialogue being difficult to understand, and volume levels fluctuating. English captions for the hearing impaired are included as an option.

Extras

There are no special features on this set.

Final thoughts

If you're looking for a collection of bite-sized Shakespeare stories, this is it. While the extreme brevity of the tales means that the filmmakers pretty much have to butcher the plays, the end result is surprisingly respectful of the Bard's work, as his original dialogue is used even if the story is compressed until it begs for mercy. Some of the stories fare better than others, but on the whole it's not a bad resource for teachers or parents who are interested in exposing younger viewers to a great playwright. There's also some appeal here for viewers who are fans of animation, as the tales showcase the talents of a variety of Russian animators. Rent it.

Popular Reviews
1. Eastbound & Down: Season 4
2. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX
3. Noah
4. Bob's Burgers: Season 3
5. Heaven Is for Real
6. Rio 2
7. Scanners
8. Orphan Black: Season 2
9. Ripcord: Complete Season 1
10. Ping Pong Summer


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use