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An animated adaptation of twelve of Shakespeare's best-known plays. The series was produced by S4C for the BBC, but animated by some of the foremost artists of Soyuzmultfilm, the former Soviet Union's main animation studio. Each 26-minute play is directed by a different animator, in a wide variety of styles: cel animation for Macbeth, stop-motion puppets in Twelfth Night, and paint on glass for Hamlet.Written by
As said many times, have always had a lifelong love of animation, old and new. Disney, Studio Ghibli, Hanna Barbera, Tom and Jerry, Hanna Barbera, Looney Tunes and also the works of Tex Avery and Fleischer. With a broader knowledge of animation styles, directors, studios and how it was all done actually love it even more now.
Have also loved William Shakespeare's work from an early age, remember very fondly reading various parts aloud in primary and secondary school English classes when studying the likes of 'Macbeth', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'Twelfth Night' and various film adaptations such as Kenneth Branagh's 'Much Ado About Nothing' and Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth'. So a large part of me was hugely intrigued by 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales', with such a high appreciation of both animation and Shakespeare. There was also the worry of whether Shakespeare would work as short animated adaptations compressed and condensed, when some much longer adaptations have suffered.
It was wonderful that 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales' not only lived up to expectations but exceeded them. All my worries of whether it would work quickly evaporated when it absolutely did work and brilliantly. Even with the short lengths, the essence and spirit of all the plays (almost all among his most famous, best and most timeless) are handled superbly and they don't suffer from the condensation, nothing is incoherent which is a big achievement seeing as most of the stories here have very complicated plots. Not all the humour is there in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' sure, but that's forgivable when it's still engaging and very funny.
Shakespeare's colourful and thought-provoking language is as colourful and thought-provoking as one would hope, so many recognisable moments with all their impact. All in a way to appeal and be understandable to a wide audience, being easy to understand for younger audiences (of which the series is a perfect introduction of Shakespeare to), with such complex text and plots a lot of credit is due. Adults will relish how the text is delivered, the many quotable lines and how well the essence of every story is captured.
Younger audiences and adults alike will marvel and laugh out loud at the more comedic adaptations (so 'Twelfth Night', 'Taming of the Shrew' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream') and children won't be too scared by the darker and more dramatic adaptations like particularly 'Macbeth', 'Richard III' (both very dark stories so the approach is appropriate) and parts of 'The Tempest'. A personal favourite from 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales' is 'Twelfth Night'.
The animation is very appealing to look at, colourful (both light and dark depending on the basic tone, whether dark or comedic), nicely drawn and atmospheric and perfectly suited to the various characters and tones of each of the plays. The music is never inappropriate, the narration is never over-explanatory or annoying and always sincerely delivered and the voice acting is remarkably well done and often spot on (many having much experience in Shakespeare), with many perfectly cast and some that seem odd choices on paper turn out very well.
Overall, really wonderful and really does work. Not many of the adaptations will be up there up there with the best or most definitive adaptations but that's beside the point, what matters is how well made it is and how it makes the most of an interesting concept that washes away any worries as to how successfully it's executed. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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