Appellate Judge Tom Becker found himself in animation heaven watching this disc.
"Memory is a strange and wonderful thing. After 70 years, I can still
recall the days of my childhood as if they'd just taken place."
A pair of short animated films from Producer/Director Michael Sporn that originally aired on television:
The Marzipan Pig
The Marzipan Pig is based on a book by Russell Hoban, who also wrote the classic "Frances" series. The film is basically a read aloud, with an excellent and expressive Tim Curry providing the narration against a background of oil painted scenery. Hoban's book—which is the only text used—contains words, phrases, and concepts not readily accessible to a 4-to-8-year-old, and young children might need some assistance following this existential tale of creatures searching to love and be loved. But this is also why the film works so well. Sporn doesn't "talk down" to his young audience, and there seems to be the expectation that this family feature will, in fact, be viewed and enjoyed by children and adults.
Jazztime Tale is a more straightforward story. Ruby Dee narrates as Lucinda, looking back decades to the magical night that she met Rose, and they saw the boy who would become "Fats" Waller play jazz at a local theater. Unlike The Marzipan Pig, Jazztime Tale was not based on a book; it's an original script by Maxine Fisher. Composer David Evans has come up with a great original jazz score that sounds like it could have come from Waller. Jazztime Tale is wonderfully engaging and rendered in simple colors and sepias. It offers all kinds of lessons about friendship and commonality without ever lecturing or making obvious statements.
Both films are absolutely charming and feature beautiful hand-drawn animation and evocative scores. They are art films that truly are "all-ages entertainment," literate and though provoking. These are not electronic babysitter pieces, but sophisticated and challenging works that lend themselves to discussion and repeat viewings.
First Run Features has given us a good package. The films look and sound fine, and we get a nice little slate of extras, including an interview with Sporn that gives us a lot of background on both films. Budding artists will especially like the look at storyboards and cell animation for The Marzipan Pig.
It's refreshing to see a children's video that doesn't rely on souped-up graphics and frenetic action, that tells a meaningful story without preaching, and that trusts its audience—young and old—to think critically.
Highly recommended. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
• "Making of" interview with Michael Sporn
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