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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre is an award-winning series in which accomplished actors and actresses act out adaptations of well-known fairy tales such as "The Frog Prince," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Hansel and Gretel." Because every story is different and the live-action format can make precarious scenes seem even scarier than usual, this is a real know-your-kid situation. Some stories deal with threatening themes (vindictive stepmothers, baking kids in an oven, and a grandmother-eating wolf, for instance), weapons are visible, and magic is used as a weapon. Many of the tales offer lessons about positive traits such as honesty and humility. The show's dated special effects and elaborate costumes and sets might not be an instant hit with kids more attuned to CGI, but this superb series is quality entertainment for the whole family.
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What's the story?
SHELLEY DUVALL'S FAERIE TALE THEATRE is an award-winning collection of live-action fairy tale adaptations. Hostess Duvall introduces the stories before the scenes are set for elaborate stage productions of favorites such as "The Three Little Pigs," "The Little Mermaid," and "Pinocchio." The series counts entertainment icons Robin Williams, Carl Reiner, Barbara Hershey, and Christopher Reeve among the many guests who graced the screen during the show's six seasons.
Is it any good?
They don't make TV shows like this anymore, which makes this vintage offering even more unique among families' many entertainment choices. Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre has a kind of grab-bag appeal because every story is different, and even the stories familiar to viewers have plot twists that often yield surprises. And then there's the show's unusual (by today's standards) production value and costumes -- a fun departure from modern entertainment styles, likely an acquired taste for younger viewers but delightfully suited to this presentation. Best of all, though, is the veritable who's who of Hollywood stars who lent their talents to the show over the years.
But although Faerie Tale Theatre makes for excellent family entertainment, it's also unpredictable in its content, so parents should take care in choosing episodes without scenarios that might scare their young kids. Whether it's a character's frightful costume or a threatening suggestion (talking to strangers could get you eaten in these kinds of stories), the fact that it plays out in live action makes the potential for scares a little greater than in cartoon or book versions. What's more, in many cases, the stories take unexpected turns, so even if your kids know the stories, there might be unexpected turns in these adaptations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre compares to other versions of the same stories. At what points did the writers take creative license with the plot? What, if anything, did these changes add to the stories?
Why does this series still have appeal so many years after it originally aired? Do you enjoy its decidedly different look? Did any of its content surprise you? Can something like this compete with today's cutting-edge special effects?
Kids: Was there a lesson to be found in this tale? If so, did the character learn it? Do you often find lessons in the shows you watch?
- Premiere date: September 11, 1982
- Cast: Shelley Duvall, Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges
- Network: Online
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Fairy Tales
- Character strengths: Courage
- TV rating: NR
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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