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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jim Henson's The Storyteller is one of the finest children's shows ever made ... for those with a taste for darker fare. The anthology series is based on classic fairy tales, from Grimm and other sources, so they have the requisite (usually offscreen) gory endings and harsh lessons. The narrator is fairly creepy and the costumes elaborately grim. For kids who can handle this kind of material this is truly excellent viewing for the entire family.
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What's the story?
In a departure from the typically sunny fare produced by Jim Henson's Muppet-oriented studio, THE STORYTELLER, which uses live actors and animatronic puppets to tell European fairy tales, is rather dark and mysterious. John Hurt is the narrator, telling stories by the fireside to his faithful talking dog (Brian Henson); the narrator's telling then drifts into showing, with actors and human-voiced puppets playing the parts. Parents will probably recognize elements of the stories ("Sapsorrow" is sorta like Cinderella, but not exactly), but many of them are obscure, and not the Grimm versions. However, like Grimm, these fairy tales can be gory and harsh: One character is kidnapped by a troll, another one condemned to be boiled alive in oil. Good always triumphs over evil in the end, but there are often terrible trials to suffer in the meantime.
Is it any good?
This anthology series is one of the best children's shows, ever. Every aspect of the production is superior. Henson's studio spared no expense, collecting a dream roster of acting talent, giving them snappy dialogue and fantastic stories, and then polishing the visuals until they're positively magic. The makeup and costumes are stunning, every bit the equal of big-budget movies, with actors realistically turned into creatures like a shivering hedgehogs and terrifying trolls.
Speaking of that, The Storyteller's darkness and realism may be too much for young or sensitive kids: characters are put in mortal danger over and over again, and even the show's narrator is a bit creepy and seems to tell of the character's travails with just a little too much relish. But older kids, or ones who can handle a chill, will be stunned silent by the grandeur of these stories. This is a truly magnificent show and should be required viewing for the whole family, or anyone who believes that art and television are mutually exclusive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea that good characters always prevail in fairy tales. How can you tell if a character is good or bad? Is it from what he or she does and says? Do "good" characters look or sound different than "bad" characters in The Storyteller? What about in real life?
Main characters often must undergo terrifying challenges, such as stealing a feather from a vicious griffin. Is that what a hero does? What other kinds of things does a hero do? What kind of things do you do in your life that are heroic? What about your mom and dad?
Magical beings often help the characters out of tight spots in The Storyteller. Who helps you get out of tight spots? If you had a magical friend, what would she help you do? Can real people rely on luck, fate, or magic when they are in trouble?
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