Timeless Tales from Hallmark (1990– )
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While not all the episodes are completely faithful, with "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" and "Rapunzel" having different endings and "The Emperor's New Clothes" being told with animals, the original stories/fairy tales are told with respect for the source material with the basic structure, the most important characters and the spirit maintained.
Along with the animation that dominates all the characters, there are live-action book-ends that add a lot to the storytelling. The children are endearing and their scenes that open each episode charm and set the stories up very nicely. Olivia Newton-John serves as a very sincere narrator.
Most of the animation quality is very good, there's better but it's never amateurish. It's vibrantly coloured, very detailed in the backgrounds and smooth in detail with well-done character designs. The one exception is "Puss in Boots" (my least favourite of the episodes, but there's still a lot to like about it) which lacks the usual smoothness and most of the characters look odd.
In terms of the music, that works very well too. The incidental scoring has jauntiness, whimsy, energy and pathos, often lush and never sounding cheap, while the songs range from catchy (the duet between the ballerina and Jack-in-the-Box in "The Steadfast Tin Soldier") to incredibly emotional like in "Rapunzel". The only songs that this reviewer deems forgettable are the ones from "The Emperor's New Clothes".
Scripting is funny without being juvenile, heartfelt without being too saccharine and some with a creepiness that never feels too traumatising. Some of the episodes incorporate some inspired rhyming, with notable examples being Jack-in-the-Box in "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" and Rumpelstiltskin in "Rumpelstiltskin".
Narratively, all the episodes have little fault. They're not completely faithful to their source material but still pays them with respect while entertaining children. They never feel rushed or stretched, remarkable considering there are some that are problematic to adapt especially "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Rumpelstiltskin". They are also all told with humour and pathos, "Rumpelstiltskin" being the most entertaining, with "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" not close behind, and "The Ugly Duckling" being the most touching, with "Rapunzel" and "Thumbelina" also heartfelt.
Characters are memorable and likable in their own way, the heroes are charming and rarely bland and the villains are sinister but also fun. There is some very strong voice acting, with only "Puss in Boots" disappointing in this regard, while Tim Curry (having a ball as Jack in "The Steadfast Tin Soldier"), Charlie Adler (at his most understated and moving in "The Ugly Duckling) and Hamilton Camp (being humorous and grotesquely creepy in "Rumpelstiltskin") are notable standouts.
Overall, a wonderful show that lives up to its name. 9/10 (would have been a 10 if "The Emperor's New Clothes" and especially "Puss in Boots" were a little better executed). Bethany Cox