Mother Goose Stories

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Mother Goose Stories TV Poster Image
Henson also-ran brings blah puppetry to classic folktales.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

Some early literacy value in that the episodes bring to life some favorite childhood rhymes and stories that might inspire kids to read and enjoy more.

Positive Messages

Since the episodes are based on nursery rhymes, lessons like "listen to your mother" or "be brave" are front-and-center.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As in most fairytales, characters are designated "good" or "bad" without much more to go on than a pretty (or an ugly) face.

Violence & Scariness

Characters are sometimes in mildly scary situations, i.e. Humpty Dumpty fearing a fall.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mother Goose Stories from Henson Studios is hardly another Fraggle Rock or The Storyteller in terms of quality, but it's harmless enough. The series presents expanded stories built around classic nursery rhymes like "Wee Willie Winkie" and the "Eensy Weensy Spider," which may be of interest to 3- and 4-year-olds who enjoy such rhymes. Very sensitive children may be frightened of some images, like a fierce, looming dragon in "Jack and Jill," or Humpty Dumpty landing on the ground with a chilling splat.

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What's the story?

Spawned by the same studio system that produced classic kids' fare like The Muppet Show, MOTHER GOOSE STORIES was the first effort from Henson studios after founder Jim Henson died. Sadly, it kind of shows in the cheesy sets and awkward puppeteering. Each segment of Mother Goose Stories takes on a well-worn nursery rhyme such as "Hey, Diddle Diddle" and "Old King Cole" and uses live-action child actors and puppets to flesh out an eight-minute story, sometimes with ironic or absurd twists (Jack and Jill run into a scary dragon on the way from the well, but he turns out to just be a frustrated chef). When the stories aired on the Disney Channel in the '90s, they were linked by threes into 30-minute episodes, with connecting vignettes where Mother Goose (Angie Passmore) would begin telling the tales to her goslings. On DVD, these vignettes usually run just before each episode.

Is it any good?

If you've seen the grandeur and magic that Henson Studios is capable of, it's hard to see Mother Goose Stories as anything other than a poor copy of a great show like The Storyteller. It has, more or less, the same format (retellings of passed-down tales, though The Storyteller is more faithful to both plot and tone), but it's nowhere near as good. To begin with, the puppets, apparently made by a non-Henson company, are downright ugly. Their look is supposedly based on the art of Maxfield Parrish, who illustrated the L. Frank Baum book Mother Goose in Prose, which provided the source material for many of the tales in Mother Goose Stories. Maxfield Parrish's work is gorgeous, to be sure. These puppets? Not.

Sets, dialogue, even the child actors who play human roles like Jack, Jill, and Little Boy Blue, all seem like the down-on-their-luck versions of what you'd find in The Storyteller. The show isn't downright awful, mind you. It's just thoroughly mediocre; really only for Henson completists, very keen nursery rhyme enthusiasts, or, perhaps, those with way too much time on their hands.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why fairytale characters sometimes act so strangely, going into dangerous places they were told not to go, or seeking out things they know might hurt them. Why do you think these characters behave this way?

  • Have you seen any of the other movies or shows made by Henson Studios, such as The Muppets or Fraggle Rock? Do you like Mother Goose Stories better, or not as much? Which show do you think was more expensive to make, Mother Goose Stories or Fraggle Rock? Whyat makes you think that?

  • Strange things happen in folk tales that don't happen in real life. Animals talk, characters make wishes that come true, and so on. What would you like to happen in your life that would be like a fairy tale?

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For kids who love classics

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