Hey, I had 33 minutes free, so I thought why not take a peek at the unique family offering PETER & THE WOLF. Max and Cartoon Network debuted this new take on the classic story on Thursday, October 19 for families to enjoy. What makes this telling unique is that famed composer/musician Gavin Friday takes the classic Sergei Prokofiev symphony and gives it a fresh sound. Just quickly, if you don’t know of the old orchestral work of 1936, the Russian composer Prokofiev was commissioned to craft a children’s musical and came up with the story of the young lad and his animal friends venturing to capture a dangerous wolf threatening the village. Each character is identified in the music by distinct melodies and instruments. It is a wonderful musical tale now ready for a new audience.
Equally unique is the modern look of the story based on the illustrations of U2’s Bono. It gives a new look to the classic utilizing traditional hand-drawn 2D animation combined with a physical set-built world. The studio responsible for taking Bono’s renderings and animating them is Blink Industries.
My biggest takeaway from this stirs up an old debate. Why must old classics be reimagined or modernized? They stand on their own or they wouldn’t be classics, right? You are denigrating the youth of today if you think they can only relate to this if the child looks like them or lives like them and I don’t think that is universally true. This adaptation also downplays the intent of the original work. Not only does the original concept offer a vital message for young people but it introduces them to musical instruments, their sounds and the effectiveness of music in general – Music Education 101. That’s where I first encountered the tale; that and Disney’s 1946 animated short, which not only gave us the musical lesson but took us to Russia as well. I wish this reimaging had hovered more over that original intent. That original score is great on its own, did they really need to add banjos and accordions to it? I say, not.
Having said that though, there is something quite positive about this recent retelling. Even though it is set in a darker tone, sparked no doubt by Bono’s depictions of the wolf, the message of the piece is quite evident. A quote from Friday and Bono themselves sums up that thought – “The messaging of vigilance, bravery, and resilience that were core to the original symphony are still echoed throughout our interpretation, but we spin a traditional fairy tale into a unique adaptation that also incorporates the topic of loss, redemption, and recovery.”
Match that up with some wonderful animation craftsmanship and this story draws you in. The mixing of animation and set pieces really gives it a unique look. The simple black, white & gray palette, with a little splash of color here & there, also enhances the tone this piece wishes to take. All of it is built upon the simple painting skills of Bono and the symphonic splendor of the classic score. But it wouldn’t have hurt to have given modern youths a dose of Music 101.