A Few Fine Fairy Tale Films

While waiting for next week’s Tangled, Disney’s take on Rapunzel, I’ve been mulling over what makes a successful fairy tale movie for kids.  There are a lot of ephemeral ones out there, more out all the time it seems.  The ones that work for me are those with a bit more heft — some are updated, some are not, but all have wit, charm, and depth.  Here are four of those, one of which will be very familiar and three others that may be less so.  Do add your own suggestions in the comments.


Ashpet.  This is a delightful independent, small-budget, film, a Cinderella set in the rural South.  It is one of Tom Davenport’s From the Brothers Grimm series; the others are excellent too.


Enchanted.  Okay, this is the familiar one, but it is really clever and charming and holds up on multiple viewings.  The gentle digs at all sorts of classical Disney films are extremely funny if you know the originals and still extremely funny if you don’t.


Unfortunately I can’t find a trailer for the very sweet and under-the-radar I Was a Rat! (although I did notice the whole thing is up in parts on youtube — probably illegally so I’m not linking to it).  I regularly read aloud Philip Pullman’s book, a witty and elegant fiddling about with Cinderella, and find this movie to be a very faithful rendering of it.


Penelope.  This is a very interesting contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast, fun, different, and a tad surprising.



Filed under fairy tales, Film

6 responses to “A Few Fine Fairy Tale Films

  1. Please do not mock me, but I loved Ever After, with Drew Barrymore. I think it would be fine for older elementary schoolers as well as teenagers.


  2. No mocking here because I like it too! We usually show it to the 4th graders as part of our Cinderella unit. (PS, Marjorie: spot on NYTimes review of A TALE DARK AND GRIMM.)


  3. brookeshelf

    I’m a fan of the short-lived Jim Henson series The Storyteller, which ran for a dozen or so episodes on HBO in the ’80s. They are lavish reproductions of European folktales; the adaptations were written by Anthony Minghella and stars John Hurt as the “storyteller.”

    Some of the episodes are a little uneven — too much experimenting with special effects — but the two directed by Henson himself, “The Soldier and Death” and “The Heartless Giant” are absolutely remarkable. Here’s a clip from “The Soldier and Death” in which the hero beats a pack of devils at poker:


  4. Brooke, I use Sapsorrow to introduce a rather “difficult” Cinderella type — the one with the father who wants to marry her. I love the way they came up with to make it tolerable for the kids and then I move on to the real tales (Donkeyskin and the Grimm — can’t spell it off the top of my head, but there’s a sanitized pb version of it call Fur Ball). One reason I didn’t feature it here is I’m not sure how available the Henson series is. Doesn’t seem to be on DVD.


  5. brookeshelf

    Aha! I was wondering if you were familiar with “Sapsarrow.” I think the production does an excellent job of dealing with the father-must-marry-the-daughter dilemma as well.

    “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller” — the complete first season — was released on DVD in 2003. I think it’s out of print, but you can find a used copy on Amazon for about $15. I’d avoid the “Greek Myths” series, though. It just isn’t as good (no John Hurt!).


  6. I wish instead of “Tangled,” Disney had made “Rapunzel’s Revenge” into a film. http://www.squeetus.com/stage/books_rap.html

    Actually, I’d rather it had been done by Pixar, which respects story as the most important part of a film. I read the “Junior Novelization” of “Tangled,” and, well, story is not it’s strong point.


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