Director – Andrew Goff – 1994 – UK – Cert. U – 35m
VHS tape review from What’s On In London sometime back in the mid-1990s, republished here to coincide with the sad news of writer / illustrator Eric Carle’s death at 91.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories is based on the stories of German writer / illustrator Eric Carle and genuinely manages to make infant learning a fun experience. The title story, for instance, traverses days of the week, basic numeracy and simple sentence structure at the same time (“On Monday, he ate one apple, but he was still hungry. On Tuesday, he ate two pears…”) aided by a Roger McGough voice over that would stand up pretty well as a pre-recorded audio cassette in its own right.
The film has further fun still with the animation medium. The caterpillar is cleverly reconceived as a series of joined-up flat shapes, while the cut-out animation techniques used prove not only the perfect vehicle for Carle’s material, but are imaginatively used which renders them watchable over and over again by adults and children alike.
Other Carle stories featured include The Very Quiet Cricket and I See A Song.
The former concerns a young cricket who finds himself unable to respond aurally to the greetings of his numerous fellow creatures until he meets a girl cricket, when “he chirped the most beautiful sound she had ever heard.” Among the animals encountered are a praying mantis, a worm (in an apple!), a cicada and a swarm of mosquitoes.
The latter commences with a colourless violinist playing music, the cue for a series of quasi-abstract coloured images and patterns. Aside from a brief verbal introduction (“My music talks, my colours dance. Come, listen – and let your imagination see your own song.”), this tale lacks a narrator and relies to an even greater extent than the four preceding it on the impressive music of the versatile Julian Nott (who also scored Nick Park’s plasticene animated Wallace and Gromit epics).
But the stories, the visuals and the animation are the real stars throughout. The result is that rare commodity, a truly excellent and highly enjoyable child’s video which respects both pre-school audience and animation medium.
Carle’s stories Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me (narrated by Juliet Stevenson) and The Mixed Up Chameleon complete the package.
Polygram Video (VHS), £8.99, 1994.
Originally published in What’s On In London sometime back in the mid-1990s, republished here to coincide with the sad news of writer / illustrator Eric Carle’s death at 91.
2021 update: Technology has moved on and a quarter of a century later, all five shorts can be found on the production company The Illuminated Film Company’s YouTube channel. Optional English, German or self-generated subtitles. Links below.
They have also been reissued on DVD in the UK and US, the latter by Disney featuring different voice artists Brian Cummings and Linda Gary, dubs not heard by this reviewer.
(Purists please note: the films were originally made in 4:3 aspect ratio whereas these transfers appear to be stretched into 16:9. Which is why, for example, the sun is short and fat rather than round.)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar:
Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me:
The Very Quiet Cricket:
The Mixed Up Chameleon:
I See A Song: