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Tales of Hans Christian Andersen - The Emperor's New Clothese and Nightingale, The

First Run Features // Unrated // June 19, 2007
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted September 4, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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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