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Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories, The

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // January 3, 2006
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted February 6, 2006 | E-mail the Author
As many parents already know, Eric Carle ranks among the finest children's book authors of them all. His artwork is a collection of dazzling images that impress readers of any age, while his texts contain a playful repetition which makes for some terrific bedtime reading.

In the video age, it's become quite common to adapt any popular kids book into a short film. But are Carle's books adaptable? Much like "Goodnight Moon" or "The Snowman," the simplicity of Carle's works seems to imply that not much can be done with them. And besides, part of the magic of Carle's most famous book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," was in its unique layout, in which pages came in various sizes, and several of the pages had holes punched into them, creating a unique effect certain to catch a child's eye. Can't duplicate that on the TV screen.

So I credit director Andrew Goff and his animation team in pulling off the impossible. In 1993, Goff headed "The World of Eric Carle," a British series of short cartoon adaptations of a handful of Carle's stories. The series stays refreshingly true to the books - not a word has been changed, nothing has been added to pad out the stories. The only addition is vibrant animation that allows Carle's characters to pop to life. The result, then, is nothing more than what you might find on an episode of, say, "Reading Rainbow," which is not at all a bad thing. This is the fine art of the animated short film, and it's lovely enough that while it's intended for children, the grown-ups in the room will find themselves curiously drawn to the program as well.

In 1995, the series was picked up by Disney and repackaged under the new title "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories" (obviously capitalizing on the popularity of the main story, and the fact that many parents may recognize the title and distinctive art style long before they recall Carle's name). Original narrators Roger McGough and Juliet Stevenson were replaced by American voices Brian Cummings and Linda Gary; not having heard the original soundtrack, I cannot compare, although I can say that Cummings and Gary's replacement narrations are quite effective in their "story time" charms. (Unchanged is Julian Nott's gorgeous musical score, which is a thing of genuine beauty.)

Whatever the title, it's an impressive work; the dazzling watercolor-esque animation remains faithful to Carle's style, bringing it to life in a way that's respectful to the source and delightful to the viewer.

Included in this collection are the following stories:

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar." A young caterpillar eats too much in this fun counting story, the centerpiece of the collection.

"Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me." A girl asks her father to reach the moon. A delightful fairy tale, and the best of these five shorts.

"The Very Quiet Cricket." A newborn cricket, unable to chirp, encounters many creatures who make sounds. Very cute.

"The Mixed-Up Chameleon." A chameleon's trip to a zoo delivers some bizarre results. Another enjoyable "learn about animals" tale.

"I See a Song." An almost wordless, abstract piece in which a violinist's music is turned into an array of colors and shapes. Absolutely beautiful.

The DVD

Video


The smooth colors and delicate imagery may look soft, but that's just the careful recreation of Carle's style. Even with the softness, the visuals still pop and crackle in all the right places. Presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Audio

I didn't expect a storybook compilation to sound as good as this one does. The simple Dolby 2.0 stereo is lush and vibrant, giving the music room to play without going overboard.

Extras

The only real extra is the counting came "Eating Through the Week." It's a learning activity intended for the youngest viewers (some of whom may need help with the remote control).

Also included are the usual assortment of trailers for other Disney releases.

Final Thoughts

While it's no substitute for Carle's original works, this compilation is a very worthy companion piece. (Who knows? It might just get your young one wanting to pick up the books.) These are wonderful pieces of animation that won't grow tiresome after your child's eleven millionth viewing. For parents looking for some quality storytelling on video, this one is Highly Recommended.
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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
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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