The animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved fairy tale/poetry collection originally aired as a two-part special in 2016 during the festive period. I loved watching it then, and loved it just as much upon revisiting it now.
The TV film takes five of the six stories/poems from Dahl’s book, which were themselves twisted retellings of classic fairy tales, and weaves them together to tell one coherent, if delightfully quirky, narrative. Dahl’s original text is woven seamlessly into the narration, which does well to preserve his distinct style of storytelling, drawing on his playful sense of wordplay, rhythm, and rhyme to propel the story forward with characteristically dark humour, and surprising twists and turns.
Quentin Blake’s illustrations are synonymous with Dahl’s work. As such, it could easily have proven tricky to pair his words with a noticeably different art style. I thought the animation was wonderful, however; slick, vibrant, and brilliantly stylised; distinct enough from Blake’s work to stand on its own merits, but not a radical enough departure so as to feel alien to those who already loved the book. The film’s nomination for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film proves I’m far from alone in that line of thought.
The cast features many recognisable voices, sure to be familiar to UK viewers in particular. This includes the likes of Dominic West, David Walliams, Rose Leslie, Gemma Chan, Bertie Carvel, Rob Brydon, and Tamsin Greig. Their fun and enigmatic performances are bolstered by a suitably fanciful soundtrack that never overwhelms.
The notion of balancing the light of the festive season with somewhat macabre storytelling stretches back generations, right to the days when people would gather to share ghostly tales by the fireside. This keeps the sentiment of that tradition very much alive, with rejuvenated wit, energy, and a pleasing dose of girl power.