Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taking a Children’s Tale to Dark New Depths

A review for a new ballet of The Little Mermaid has some interesting thoughts on fairy tale adaptations in general. The article is Taking a Children’s Tale to Dark New Depths by Chloe Veltman for The New York Times. Here's an excerpt:

Infused with stark blue and white light, angular movements, expressionistic visual imagery and an unsettling and often dissonant musical score by the Russian composer Lera Auerbach, Mr. Neumeier’s mature take on Andersen’s cautionary tale about a young woman who risks everything for love has about as much in common with the Disney version as Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” has with Lewis Carroll’s original text.

Perhaps to retaliate against the prettification of many classic children’s stories, prominent artists are drawn to recasting such works in more somber hues. Projects like those of Mr. Neumeier and Mr. Burton help to reconnect audiences with the darkness that lies at the heart of the originals.

But sometimes the adapters go too far in focusing on mature themes, and risk estranging not only children but adults too. This can undermine the well-intentioned efforts to bring a fresh perspective to parts of our collective folklore that have been bowdlerized in the pursuit of audience-pleasing palatability.

As always I recommend clicking through and reading the entire article for the entire take, sooner rather than later since NYT articles do not remain free for very long, I think two weeks.


  1. I agree with her statements. I think adaptions can get too... well.. grim, and lose the original meaning just as much if not more and cutsified adaptions.

  2. Kar - I have to disagree. Have you (or the original reviewer, lol) ever even read some of the original fairy tales? Not the sanitized Disney-esque version, but the original old tales. These stories weren't even written for children in many cases. They were more in the vein of morality or lesson-type tales. And the originals were often MUCH more brutal than you would think.