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 length, the essence and spirit of 'Hamlet' (one of Shakespesre's best for me and one of his that many are most familiar with) are brought out brilliantly. It doesn't suffer from the condensation, even when everything is not there, nothing is incoherent which is a big achievement.
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 story elements a lot of credit is due. Adults will relish how the text is delivered, the many quotable lines and how well the essence of is captured.
Younger audiences and adults alike will marvel and be entranced by the dark tone and the tense conflict. The more emotional parts, especially the ending, are poignant and intense. There shouldn't be any confusion and there is nothing to scare youngsters, even the admittedly spooky ghost. The characters are true to personality and handled with great respect.
The visuals are very appealing to look at, colourful, meticulously detailed, nicely rendered and atmospheric and perfectly suited to the various characters and tone of the play, very dark and rich in atmosphere. The music is never inappropriate, the narration is never over-explanatory or annoying, brilliantly delivered by Michael Kitchen.
John Shrapnel is the vocal performance standout as a deceptively charming at times yet menacingly ruthless in others, always authoritative, great understanding of the text and making Claudius the complex antagonist he is rather than an archetypes. He also booms effectively as the ghost. Tilda Swinton is touching as Orphelia and Susan Fleetwood brings out Gertrude's ambiguity well. Nicholas Farrell is subtle and noble in the title role.
Overall, brilliant. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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