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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Emperor's Newest Clothes is a reimagining of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story The Emperor's New Clothes. It uses the contradictory actions of a selfish, egotistical emperor and an innocent, honest young girl to illustrate the dangers of vanity, the value of telling the truth, and the importance of standing up for what you believe in. As per the story, the rotund emperor spends much of the show in his underwear, and in a few instances, a hint of a buttocks crack is visible. This fun retelling has energetic music, a likable heroine in the outspoken Thomasina, and excellent takeaway themes for viewers of all ages.
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What's the story?
THE EMPEROR'S NEWEST CLOTHES is set in a kingdom whose vain ruler (voiced by Jeff Daniels) revels in his subjects' excessive praise and blind compliance with whatever he believes and says. It's raining outside? No matter. The emperor decrees that the weather is perfect, and just like that, everyone agrees! To celebrate himself, he schedules a grand festival and commissions two tailors (Matt Hobby and Gabriel Sunday) to make him a stunning new wardrobe for the event. When the trickster tailors arrive with a naked mannequin and a tall tale of the ornate clothes it's wearing, the portly emperor falls for their flattery, allows them to dress him in the invisible robes, and parades around town in his underpants. Among the masses of cheering fans, only a young girl named Thomasina (Alison Pill) has the courage to speak up and tell the emperor -- and the townsfolk -- the truth about his new clothes.
Is it any good?
Happily, this funny musical doesn't let its crucial message get lost in a retelling of a classic story. The simple, bold animation style is a happy medium between the vintage tale and the modern touches, and the fun new music and intermittent narration by Alan Alda help move the story along at just the right pace. In minimal time, we get to know the exceedingly vain emperor and his spineless loyalists, the aptly named Syco (John Early) and Phantic (Tim Heidecker), well enough to cheer just a bit when they're duped by the manipulative tailors. When Thomasina is introduced, she's instantly likable, first for her naïve honesty, and then for her courageous refusal to follow the crowd.
The Emperor's Newest Clothes illustrates some complex issues in kid-friendly ways, from the petulant ruler's gigantic ego to the dangers of mob mentality. Thomasina's innocence emphasizes the value of recognizing the truth and speaking honestly, even when it means you're the lone voice of reason and others pressure you to change. The emperor's dogged refusal to admit when he's wrong makes him even more obnoxious by the story's end and reaffirms that looking only inward gets you nowhere. This playful take on a classic is a fun and worthwhile pick for families.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what The Emperor's Newest Clothes teaches about ego. How do the townspeople's reactions to the emperor encourage his vanity? Why do they continue to act that way? Do you think false praise would be as meaningful as genuine praise? Would it encourage better behavior or worse?
Why is Thomasina so determined to tell the truth about the emperor's clothes? How does this demonstrate her courage? Why do you think this is an important character strength? Is it difficult to stand up to peer pressure and bullying? Why is it important to do so?
Kids: Do you often notice lessons or learning opportunities in the shows you watch? If you do, does what you see the characters experience influence your behavior or thinking in some way? What other stories have themes that have stuck with you?
- On DVD or streaming: September 28, 2020
- Cast: Jeff Daniels, Alan Alda, Allison Pill
- Director: Simón Wilches
- Studio: HBO
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Fairy Tales, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Humility
- Run time: 27 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 28, 2020
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