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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen - The Emperor's New Clothese and Nightingale
The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen - The Emperor's New Clothese and Nightingale
First Run Features // Unrated // June 19, 2007
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted September 3, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Two short films are included here: versions of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Nightingale." Both are done by Michael Sporn.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is oddly structured. For one thing, it takes quite a while to get started (four minutes, which is a lot in a piece so short). It's presented as a frame story, with the villagers telling a visitor what happened last week. There's also a lot of exaggeration in language and presentation, which sounds odd for a fantasy story, but it just feels overdone. Stylistically it's odd, because it's told in rhyme (or rather, parts of it are told in rhyme and parts aren't, an awkward combination). What's worse, though, is that the creators of the film adaptation seem to have hijacked it for an anti-tax / anti-government theme... the original theme of the "emperor's new clothes" is awkwardly handled so that the bite of the original point is lost.

"Nightingale" works much better, as it sticks to the original story more closely and doesn't wander off into strange interpretations. Here we get the simple story of the beautiful nightingale, who sings for the Emperor but is supplanted by a mechanical bird when the original bird doesn't want to live in a golden cage. The story here is straightforward and could have been presented in less time than is actually given to it. It gets a bit surreal at the end, with a trippy dream sequence that feels fairly gratuitous, but overall it's not badly done.

Both are done in an attractive and distinctive visual style. "The Emperor's New Clothes" is done in a colorful, sketchy crayon style that is lively and pleasing to the eye. "Nightingale" is done in a similarly simple manner, with loosely penciled lines and a mainly muted palette, with a few touches of color. The visual style captures the Japanese setting well, with a watercolor appearance. (Andersen's original story is set in China, but Sporn decided to relocate the story to Japan.)

The DVD

Video

The two animated films are presented in what appears to be their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. A few flaws appear in the image now and then, but overall colors are good, and the image looks clean and clear.

Audio

The stereo soundtrack handles "The Emperor's New Clothes" in a satisfactory manner. The sound for "Nightingale" is muddy and muted, however.

Extras

Several special features are included here, though they don't add up to much. "The Making of The Emperor's New Clothes and Nightingale" is a short, mildly interesting 6-minute featurette. We also get an animatic, images, and storyboards for "The Emperor's New Clothes" and images and storyboards for "Nightingale." These special feature are likely to be of interest to people who are involved with filmmaking or are interested in pursuing an art or production career, not so much for the general viewer.

Final thoughts

These two short films are reasonably faithful to the original Hans Christian Andersen stories, more so than the other set of Michael Sporn adaptations that I reviewed. They're cute, if a bit fluffed-out. I wouldn't go out of my way to seek them out, but they're not bad. Rent it.

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