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  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
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  • 3 Theatrical trailer
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Peter and the Wolf

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 47 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Foolishly I thought this was an entire animated production of feature length. What it actually is, however, is 24 (or so) minutes of animation surrounded by live action of storytellers telling the animated story.

Kirstie Alley and Ross Malinger star as mother and son visiting Granddad Lloyd Bridges in the hills of undisclosed Europe (most likely Switzerland or Austria). Here Peter, the son, is bored with his grandfatherís old age and lack of stories, so Mom starts telling a beloved tale of Peter and the Wolf as if it happened right outside their little chalet.

This fable is a well beloved favourite in Russia and Europe and has been given a mild makeover here, as we are told the tale of Peter outwitting the wily wolf and shipping him off to a zoo. Iím not sure what the moral message here is Ė possibly believe in your own courage or something no matter what people tell you. Maybe itís disobey your elders, I dunno.

At any rate, Peter and the Wolf brings the music of Sergei Prokofievís symphonic tale to animated life, whilst trying to remain true to the original fairytale. Chuck Jones, world famous animator for Warner Bros.' Merry Melodies (among others) does the designing and creation of the characters. However, even this great animatorís work fails to inspire in this really rather average production. The children will most probably like it, but it was a bit tough on jaded old me. Having the bigger name cast was a wise choice though and this did encourage a little enthusiasm, but the Ďadd-oní American storyline of mother and son visiting Gramps and bridging the generation gap is a little overdone.

Another disappointing feature is in the 47 minute length of the film. What, are we at war? Is film stock being rationed? I guess this comes down to the simplicity of the story. To be honest, in retrospect, they are lucky to wring 47 minutes out of the story. In truth I donít quite understand why the tale is so beloved. Itís a bit simple and the costume on Peter is positively the worst and looks like it has come from the Netherlands or Holland. Oh well.

  Video
Contract

For the most part this 4:3 presentation has been accomplished fairly nicely by way of the transfer. While film artefacts are present, there is never anything too crap. The live action is cleanly shot and transferred with even colours throughout, although there are moments when the sepia tones take over in the darker shadows. On this note, there arenít many shadows and no detail within them anyway, but they work alright. Blacks are true and flesh tones look natural enough.

The animated backgrounds have been rather loosely rendered in a familiar style, reminiscent of the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote stouches, but they appeared to me cheap and sloppily finished, not lending much appeal to the overall presentation.

There is also one scene I must make note of, whereby a duck performs a ballet sequence for around a minute or two and this is the absolute highlight of the film without doubt. Perhaps the whole film was worth it for that moment, almost.

Almost.

  Audio
Contract

Kirstie Alley narrates here and she performs surprisingly brilliantly. Using some great storytelling devices she conjures up the energy of the story far better than the animation does. Which is good for here, but a shame for animation. Music has been composed by Sergei Prokofiev of course, with additional music being scored by Cameron Patrick and director George Daugherty. This is another highlight, as it has all been recorded and performed brilliantly and sounds superb here, although only in Dolby Digital stereo.

Sound effects are limited, but those used are naturally comical with Kirstie Alley again voicing a duck and cat character. And not with words, with catílike spits and hisses and meows. Plus quacks for the duck.

She really is surprisingly good.

  Extras
Contract

If I were releasing a 47 minute film on DVD Iíd wanna have a little more incentive for folks to buy the disc. Happily, they too feel the same way and have given us a smaller swag of stuff, though it will be of interest to the little dudes you might share your home with. (At my house heís called Tom and heís 22 years old).

Firstly thereís The Musical World of Peter and the Wolf. This is a 10:50 featurette aimed at the youngsters and is hosted by Julia Glander who takes us through the workings of a symphony orchestra. Interesting, but the dialogue might be too simple for the grown-ups.

Next is a making of featurette entitled Beyond the Meadow. This runs for 15:06 and features interviews with cast and crew plus Chuck Jones himself. Moderately interesting for the kids, but nothing weíve not seen before.

Finally a lacklustre game called Animals and Instruments: Making the Perfect Match. On the left we have five animals and on the right we have five instruments. Click one of each to see them paired up for a ten second burst of both footage and music.

Also included are three trailers for other animated/live action films in Annie, Stuart Little 2 and The Swan Princess Collection. Annie, hate the comic strip as I do, is a killer trailer and well worth visiting. Albert Finney can be anyone, canít he?

  Overall  
Contract

While the intention is direct here, the execution isnít as polished as it could be. There are moments of cel error and animation error with overlaps that are where they shouldnít be. The backgrounds look rushed and mildly outdated and some of the animation itself is a little ordinary. The story is okay, though on the whole fairly uninteresting, but it is thankfully only a shorter film rather than stretching it beyond its capacities (which it is already in danger of at any rate).

Definitely for the kids if anyone, I imagine they will find something of worth in this film, but for anyone else I shouldnít like to imagine so. At least there arenít any songs though.

Thatís something.


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      And I quote...
    "At least there isnít any singingÖ"
    - Jules Faber
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    • Surrounds:
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    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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