This DVD of Peter and the Wolf, produced by Breakthru Films and Arthaus Music, won an Oscar, deservedly in my opinion, in 2008 for the best animated short film. The animation uses stop-frame model animation made popular by the Wallace & Gromit creators and was produced by Breakthru films, using Polish animation company Se-ma-For Studios puppet animation.
The DVD, through the wonderfully clear and empathetic playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra, brings Peter and the Wolf to life in a modern setting in a clearing near the edge of a town in a very poor neighbourhood. Rather than Prokofiev's words, the director Suzie Templeton has used animation to convey the emotions behind the music and succeeds in creating a dark fairy-tale like atmosphere, with all too real characters. She does this not through words, but by the actions, movement and expressions of the various characters. This really puts the power back into the music, making the whole piece more mysterious and exciting to watch.
Prokofiev composed the music for his own children in 1936, using a number of “characters” to tell a simple story. Each character is portrayed by a separate instrument, so you can work out who is in the limelight at any point during the story.
The opening scene is somewhat black, with Peter being hit twice by the hunters and dumped into a large rubbish bin. That episode, soon over, is the only scene in the film which might worry the most timorous small child. There is some wonderful scenery and animation to enjoy: in particular Peter and his Grandfather's shack are portrayed in touching clarity and poverty. Elsewhere in the film look out for the slithering movement of the wolf down the mountainside and the tenderness of Peter, both with his Grandfather and his pet duck and bird. Throughout the tale, feelings are beautifully expressed by all the characters through their eyes which convey a vast range of emotions. The animation is full of tiny touches which only become apparent when you watch it for the second or third time. The story differs from the original by Prokofiev, but retains most of the important features. Prokofiev leaves the ending of the story open, but this animation gives a clearer ending without any bloodshed, but with a duck giving no sign that he can recover from being swallowed! I strongly recommend this as a gift for any child.
2nd August 2008
(This is a European DVD - check amazon.com for availability of an NTSC version)
To watch a clip with good sound and picture quality click here.
To listen to the “musical themes” of each instrument, you can click here.