HBO // 1995 // 126 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // May 10th, 2004
Best-loved classics retold in a vibrantly original and musical animated series.
Ever notice that most fairy-tale storybooks are colorblind? I often did as a child and asked why. My mother always noted that it was unfair but that it was the popular interpretation. Despite that explanation, it still bothered me greatly. Which is why I eagerly endorse Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child as the solution to that problem. Here at last is a program with African-American and Hispanic heroes, giving inspiration to children everywhere. The series began in 1995 on HBO and still runs today.
So what happens to those families who aren't fortunate enough to have access to HBO? I'm happy to report that now there is a solution to their problem. HBO Video has released the initial volume in what I hope will be a multi-volume series. Not to be confused with the awful Filmation feature of the same name (and issued on DVD the same month), this is a wonderful series that teaches racial equality and entertains at the same time. The fairy tales and classic stories are flexible enough to survive the recasting. Credit must be given to director Ed Bell and the team of producers for not condescending to cultural stereotypes and for injecting each episode with vitality and originality as well.
Robert Guillaume (Soap, Benson) narrates four episodes of this soon-to-be classic series. On a scale of zero to five stars:
"Mother Goose: A Rappin' & Rhymin' Special"
Mother Gooseberg (who else?) decides to call it quits, causing a major ruckus in Mother Goosebergland. It's up to Humpty Dumpty (voice of Denzel Washington) to convince her otherwise.
"The Golden Goose"
Simpleton (voice of Sinbad) feeds a beggar (voice of Richard Lewis), who gives him a golden goose, leading to fame and fortune.
"The Pied Piper"
A charismatic piper convinces the local king that he can rid the town of rats.
Old George (voice of Charles S. Dutton) creates Pinoak (voice of Will Smith) out of leftover wood. He wishes Pinoak was a real boy. Be careful what you wish for.
HBO's initial installment in a potential DVD series sports a full-frame transfer that looks quite nice. The colors are appropriately rich and vibrant. Grain is non-existent. Edge enhancement, other than what the animators intended, is not to be found.
Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The mono mix is faithful to the original transmissions (in the era before Dolby Digital 5.1). Children's entertainment demands a nice, loud sound. That is what HBO delivers here with a distortion-free audio track.
There are no extras, but I think just having the four programs is more than enough for this initial disc.
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child is essential viewing for all. The $19.95 retail price tag makes it the ideal blind buy for families looking to expand their DVD collection without resorting to dreck.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated