The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen - Red Shoes and The Little Match Girl
First Run Features // Unrated // $14.95 // June 19, 2007
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted July 16, 2007
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Graphical Version
The movie

Two short films are included here: versions of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes" and "The Little Match Girl." Both are done by Michael Sporn.

Both are done in a distinctive visual style. "The Red Shoes" appears in a hand-drawn, pastel-colored style, giving the impression of being drawn by colored pencils. "The Little Match Girl" is similar in style, but more sketchy in outline. "The Red Shoes" is somewhat more realistic, in that the characters' faces and the environment are more detailed, while "The Little Match Girl" is less detailed. The voice acting and the voiceover narrators are well done: "The Little Match Girl," for instance, is narrated by F. Murray Abraham.

The stories are set in New York City, in the modern day, with the details of the stories adjusted accordingly. However, "adjusted" doesn't quite capture the extent to which Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales have been reworked for these films. It would be better to call the stories "loosely inspired by" rather than "based on" the originals. There's nothing wrong with that - these films have a certain charm of their own - but if viewers are hoping for a more traditional rendition, they'll be surprised.

The effect of the updating is to make the stories more of a reflection of modern life in the city than fairy tales. It seemed to me that the charm and sweetness of the original stories. "The Red Shoes" lacks the creepiness of the original, with the frightening power of the red shoes; and "The Little Match Girl" gets an "upbeat ending" - which is completely not how the original story goes.

I'd call these short films (each about half an hour long) artistic meditations on city life for adults, rather than fairy tales for children. The overall feel of the stories, the change of focus, and the lengthy dreamlike and musical sequences make for films that just don't feel like children's stories.

The DVD

Video

The two animated films are presented in what appears to be their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Colors are good, and the image looks clean and clear. I did notice some wavering of the image on a few occasions, but other than that, it looks fine.

Audio

The stereo soundtrack handles the stories in a satisfactory manner. Voices are clear, and the musical portion of the soundtrack (an important element in each film) is clear and attractive to the ear.

Extras

There's a six-minute piece on "The Making of The Red Shoes and Little Match Girl" featuring the artist, Michael Sporn. We also get an animatic of "The Red Shoes," and a set of images and storyboards for both films.

Final thoughts

These films are best viewed as interpretations of life in New York City through a fairy-tale lens; as such, they'll appeal to art-house film lovers (and in fact the two films have won several awards at film festivals). Taken as versions of the famous Hans Christian Andersen tales, though, I found that they disappointed, simply due to how much liberty they took with the original stories. If you know what you're looking for, you'll be able to decide whether these are a good choice for you or not. Rent it.



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