Beatrix Potter’s timeless nursery tales are sensitively brought to life in nine animated episodes of the BBC-produced The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, also known on DVD as The Beatrix Potter Collection.
With evocative watercolor backgrounds and character design strongly reminiscent of Potter’s illustrations, animation ranging from fine to excellent, and dialogue and narrative drawn straight from the source material, the series is remarkably faithful to the text, spirit, and look of Potter’s beloved stories.
Like the original stories, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends includes incidents both charming (e.g., the work of the mouse tailors in “The Tailor of Gloucester”) and alarming (e.g., the kidnapping of the bunny children in “The Tale of Mr. Tod”), often with a morality-tale twist.
Individual episodes cleverly combine related tales, so that, for example, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny” are presented as a single story. Each episode is framed by lovely though irrelevant live-action sequences, featuring Potter herself (Niamh Cusack) writing the stories in letters to children, which neither add much nor detract much. A pleasant piano score and lilting Celtic theme song provide ideal accompaniment.
For atmosphere, for style, for the best evocation of the spirit and feel of The Wind in the Willows, you can’t do better than the Hall/Taylor version.
Like the Peter Rabbit episodes, The Wind in the Willows begins and ends with charming live-action sequences, this time featuring a narrator (Vanessa Redgrave) telling the story to some children. Once again episodes and dialogue are drawn straight from the source material, though with Grahame’s much longer story more editing has been necessary. The animation, though less striking than Peter Rabbit’s lovely watercolor backgrounds, evokes the classic illustrations of Ernest Shepard.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.