Emperor's New Clothes [2001]

This collection of animated shorts (based on four of Hans Christian Andersen's much-loved fairy tales) offers a variety of visual styles. The Emperor's New Clothes is cartoonish, colorful, and accompanied by a jaunty soundtrack, all of which well serves the classic story: Two swindlers persuade a foolish king that their magical cloth can't be seen by the foolish and incompetent--so of course everyone pretends to be able to see it. The Ugly Duckling, about a duckling spurned by his family for being too different, isn't so much animated as illustrated; the mostly still pictures are lovely, but some children may find this approach a little dull. The Swineherd, a lesser-known story about a prince who disguises himself as a peasant to woo a vain princess, has a look that mixes Marc Chagall and medieval tapestries. The final story, Nightingale, uses gorgeous Japanese watercolors and simple but elegant line drawings to tell the story of an arrogant emperor who learns to value the sweet song a nightingale. All in all, a satisfying selection, sure to please young children and older Andersen fans. --Bret Fetzer

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