A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tales of the Night is a uniquely-styled animated feature composed of six folk and fairy tales and some fairy tale mayhem: a dragon must be felled; a werewolf must be stopped; a princess must be rescued from an evil sorcerer, etc. All humans and animals are seen only as black silhouettes, which lessens the impact of bared teeth, ferocious growling, and springing attacks of the villains. What might be played as scary or gruesome in other animated movies is dealt with delicately here. Kids who understand the difference between make-believe action and real violence should have no trouble. Positive messages are inherent in each story, and each also introduces a different part of the world (i.e., Africa, the Caribbean Islands, Tibet). The movie was originally made in France with English subtitles, but it's well-dubbed into English for the American DVD release.
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What's the story?
Six fairy/folk tales are framed by an elderly man and two children creating movies in a theater. Each story has a charming young hero or heroine, is set in a unique part of the world at a different time in history, and utilizes unique elements of cinema magic (costume, color, music) to tell its story. The short films include: a romantic rivalry for a boy who becomes a werewolf; a royal marriage aided by a bee, an iguana, and a mongoose; a hero who must defeat a monster demanding human sacrifice; a hero with a magic drum; a talking horse and a boy who never lies; and, a final tale of sorcery, a doe, a crow, and a mysterious fairy.
Is it any good?
This is a wonderfully imaginative work by Michel Ocelot (also responsible for the delightful Kirikou and the Sorceress and Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest). He relies upon simplicity, vibrant color, an uncommon animation style, and traditional heroes, villains, and monsters for his magic. The film's educational value comes from attention to the authentic detail of each of the six settings and time periods (i.e., Africa, the Caribbean Islands, the Middle Ages). The film's morality is found in the simple, wise messages at the core of every tale.
Though Tales of the Night lacks the high energy, sound, and fury of many animated movies released for today's kids, bravery, cleverness, and good-hearted heroes are rarely given such an exceptional and entertaining platform.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the elements that make this animated movie different from the usual fare. Describe how the filmmakers use their drawings, color, the music, and the characters to make this film special.
The boy, girl, and older man in the theater are making up the stories we see. Working alone or with friends or family, create a fairy tale of your own. Find a place, a time, and a plot that would be interesting. Try illustrating your story or even making a video of it.
Which story was your favorite? Why?
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