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Amazon – Review & User’s Quote

Amazon.co.uk review
This has done Prokofiev proud! I didn’t realise this was only 30 minutes long, but it manages to feel like a full length feature because of the exquisite animation and of course the fabulous music.
The main thing that struck me when I started watching this, was the realism of the models used. they are so lifelike in both visuals and movement. Peter himself has the most emotive eyes, every scene where his eyes are visible mesmerises you as a viewer – it really is amazing how this film grips you.
The truth is, if the visuals had been poor, the film would still have been watchable as long as the music was well performed. In this case the music is fantastic and the visuals are the best I’ve seen in modelwork, this raises this beyond film, beyond art, and into another realm.
I can watch this over and over again. So much attention to detail has been given to this project. Little things such as movements of hands are done brilliantly. One of my favourite images is that of the Duck after Peter is locked back in the yard by his Grandfather. The Duck looks a bit forlorn and stares at the gate wondering if Peter is ‘coming back out to play’ – he raises his wings slightly a few times, you have to see it to understand exactly what I mean. But it gives the Duck a real feel of character.
I love this film, and hopefully you will too.

Geraldine Mynors
Brilliant classical story. This is a brilliant version of a classic tale. Prokofiev’s music sublimely played by the great Philharmonia Orchestra . A must buy for every family with young children.
This is a stunning reinterpretation of Peter and the Wolf. We went to see the world premiere of this film at the Royal Albert Hall this autumn. It is totally stunning – very bleak and dark, and evocative of the Soviet era, but at the same time highly original and very funny in places. Our four year old loved it, but generally I would say that this version (which took years to make) is more aimed at adults and older children. Buy it for Christmas – you will love it.

Paul Birch
Simply magical! I saw this animation for the first time on Channel 4 tonight, Christmas Eve 2006, and was totally transfixed! It takes quite a bit for a program on TV to move me, but this had me moist-eyed throughout. As there is no dialogue the emotion is all in the expessions – and what expessions! Peter’s eyes alone say far more than words ever could. I URGE you to see this wonderful production! If it doesn’t come away with Oscars, etc. there will be no justice. I will be ordering a copy as soon as it is available!

T. Haillay
A brilliantly realised labour of love.The wonderful film aside, the DVD is worth having for the generous extras, including behind the scenes interviews and a feature on the making of the film. The work-in-progress detail including the hand-built rigs necessary for some of the more difficult animation is fascinating as is the explanation of the use of CGI to edit those same sequences. A complete joy… how about Stanley and Dog on DVD?

B. L. Hargrave
Agree with all the rest. This inspired me to make my own animation. (Not quite to the same standard perhaps, but ok!)
This is one of the most captivating films I’ve seen in a long time. Animation, when its done this well, can draw you in far deeper than film. The models are amazingly good, as is the quality of the animation.
There is humour, darkness and a complex understanding of the story of Peter and the Wolf.
Brilliant.…

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Classic FM – Facing old enemies

Jeremy Nicholas

A stunning new animation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf will appeal to both young and old.

Who has not been enchanted at some time or other, whether in the concert hall or on disc, by this perennial children’s favourite? Well, prepare to be enchanted all over again! Award-winning animation director Suzie Templeton (Stanley, Dog) was signed up by UK production company BreakThru films, in partnership with the Oscar-winning Se-ma-for Studios in Poland, to film Prokofiev’s musical tale using the same stop-frame model animation technique popularised by Wallace & Gromit creators Aardman Animations. After three years of preparation, this visually stunning Peter and the Wolf took nearly a year to actually make. It’s a small masterpiece.

Templeton has remained remarkably faithful to the original and makes sense of character, atmosphere and location with far greater skill and conviction than any other animated version I’ve seen. Setting it in the present day, before the music begins she establishes Peter as a lonely orphan who lives with his over-protective Grandfather in a fortified cottage on the edge of a deep Russian forest. His only friends are his pet Duck and a mischievous Bird. This both dignifies Prokofiev’s hazy grasp of dramatic structure and provides a more believable springboard for the action.

The major changes are that the spoken narration has been cut – Prokofiev’s music was always more imaginative than his prose – and, because this is 2007, Peter now has a conscience and allows the Wolf to escape back into the forest rather than letting it be sold for meat in the city market. This is fine, though I was sorry not to hear the Duck quacking from inside the Wolf’s stomach ( in his hurry, you’ll recall, he swallowed the Duck alive). Templeton admits she couldn’t find a way to represent this moment “without being grotesque or too graphic”. Personally I like a bit of gruesome, but perhaps she’s right.

One clever added value extra of this film is that as well as its TV/DVD format (subtitles, by the way, are in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch) it’s been made to be screened in concert halls worldwide and accompanied by live orchestras. An excellent booklet goes into fascinating detail about the complex labour-intensive production procedures. Bonus materials include the director’s commentary over a rough edit and a behind-the-scenes documentary, both of which will appeal, like the film itself, to young and old alike.…

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The Observer – who’s afraid of the big bad Wolf?

Get your Christmas off to a perfect start with this classic wintry tale marking 0 years since the work was commissioned by Joseph Stalin. Oldies will remember Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf from school music lessons, while those coming to the story for the first time will be delighted with this darkly comic modernization. The story and characters remain intact, albeit without narration, but gone are any twee Victorian outfits or cosy log cabins. Instead we are in contemporary Russia, where threatening bullies line graffiti-daubed streets and Peter and his grandfather live in depressing squalor. Grandfather sleeps next to an overflowing ashtray, while Peter skulks and scuffs his already tatty shoes in a dingy yard made of patched up planks and rusting metal. The dark undertones of this piece are not surprising considering director and adapter Suzie Templeton’s previous work Dog, about a boy dealing with the death of his mother and then his dog: an unsettling seven-minute animation for which she won a Bafta. Masterminded by London’s Breakthru Films, Peter and the Wolf uses puppets dressed in real fur, miniature sets and the painstaking stop-frame method favoured by Aardman Animations. Most of the filming was done in Lodz, Poland, where a team of 100 British and Polish animators, sculptors and artist worked for five years to bring this half-hour animation to life. Lead sculptor Ewa Maliszewka created nine versions of Peter before settling on the final puppet, which is reminiscent of a distorted Ron Mueck waxwork. Children will immediately identify with the huge eyes and elongated trailing limbs of Peter as he cares for his only friend Duck and defies the odds, and his grandfather, to catch the Wolf. Light relief and comedy comes in the form of Cat – a deliciously fat puffball whose heavily made-up eyes watch evilly over Peter and his friends. The emphasis here is on the story, with the music taking the back seat for the first time, although all the characters retain their signature tunes, and a new recording by the Philharmonia Orchestra premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in September is allowed to breathe in its entirety. Prokofiev’s deliberately ambiguous ending will leave children guessing and prompt plenty of discussion about what happens next: we hear Duck quack from inside the Wolf’s stomach, but will she live or not? Snuggle down and stave off the Christmas Eve stocking excitement for as long as you can.

Katie Toms

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The Sunday Times – Peter & the Wolf

Channel 4 would never encourage small boys to disobey their grandpass and enter wolf-filled forests with a coterie of animals, but Peter’s adventures look wonderfully exciting and Prokofiev’s score helps, too, in a thrillingly beautiful animation that marks the 70th anniversary of the orchestral work.

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Classic FM – Kids’ classic comes alive

Sarah Kirkup

A new animated version of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf premieres next month accompanied by the Philharmonia- live!!

In 1936, Prokofiev composed a musical score that captured the hearts of children all over the world; 70 years on, Peter and the Wolf is being brought to life in a way even the composer could not have imagined.

The brainchild of Breakthru Films, a new animated version of the story is currently in production and due to hit our screens later this year.  The film uses stop-frame model animation- a technique popularized by Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations- to give the characters incredible lifelike quality.  Filming is taking place in Poland’s Se-Ma-For studios, thereby drawing on the eastern-European origins of the story and fully capturing the magic of Prokofiev’s score and script.

The amazing visual effects are complemented by a soundtrack recorded by top London orchestra the Philharmonia, which also performs live at the film’s premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 September.  ‘This is more than an educational project,’ says the Philharmonia’s managing director David Whelton. ‘It will bring back fond childhood memories for us all, and celebrates the richness of Prokofiev’s music enjoyed by young and old alike.’

There are plans for further live screenings across the UK later in the year.  The  move will also be released on DVD in autumn and broadcast on Channel 4 over Christmas.…

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The Independent – New strings to his bow

An ambitious animated film aims to introduce a new generation of children to Prokofiv’s Peter and the Wolf.  Nicola Christie reports from Lodz, Poland.

As the 70th anniversary of Sergei Prokofiev’s classic work for children, Peter and the Wolf, approaches, a special project is taking place in Poland.  Forests are being scoured, the contents of textile factories pored over and photos of wolves are being inspected, for a lavish animated film to accompany the Russian composer’s 1936 score is in production.

Five years have been spent on a movie that is only now nearing completion; animators and artists are working around the clock in time for the Royal Albert Hall world premiere in September.  Hugh Welchman of Breakthru Films came up with the idea.  “I was looking for a project that would come out year after year.  Peter and the Wolf  seemed to me to have the potential.”

There was an added incentive: to generate a new audience for a work that has shaped the childhood of most adults today, but not their children.  “If you ask anyone over the age of 30 about Peter and the Wolf, they can recall their first experience of it.  But ask anyone under 30 and they have never heard of it.  We wanted to find a way of reintroducing it to children.”

The advent of the more recent Disney movies- The Lion King, for example- has made it hard for Prokofiev.  Sit a child down to a recording of this enchanting work- only 30 minutes long, with a narration that has been delivered by Peter Ustinov, Leonard Bernstein and Bill Clinton- and they quickly lose interest.

Welchman and his team- co-producer Alan Dewhurst and conductor Mark Stephenson- decided that if it were to have a chance of capturing a child’s imagination today, the piece needed to receive a whole new treatment.  They made a decision to turn it into a movie, packaging it as a piece of entertainment that a child wouldn’t be able to resist.  It would have lavish production values; it would be animated with care; it would be shown on a giant screen with the score performed live by a world-class orchestra (The Philharmonia for the UK), thus introduction the child to the orchestra in the way that Prokofiev intended.  “Each character in this tale is represented by a different instrument in the orchestra: the Bird by the flute, the Duck by the oboe, the Cat by the clarinet…”

A small, battered 1937 Boosey $ Hawkes exercise book of a score lies on a table beside the director Suzie Templeton in Poland’s Se-Ma-For studios in Lodz.  She  has been living in Poland for a year, masterminding a team of 100-plus animators, craftsmen, sculptors and artists- both British and Polish- on the film.  She was chosen after Welchman and Dewhurst saw her graduation stop-frame animated short film, Dog, which received a Bafta.  That was seven minutes in duration.  Peter and the Wolf is 30.

“It’s quite a leap for me,” Templeton admits.  “Also the size of the cast.  In my film I had four characters.  In Peter and the Wolf there are 19 altogether.”  These comprise the animals, grandfather, hunters and Slavic kids who hang out on street corners bullying Peter.  It sound like a lot going on, but there’s not.  Prokofiev actually made the job tough for Templeton.  He wrote a score with just three minutes’ worth of narrated plot.  Try animating a 30-minute long story around that.

“I had to work out how to visually tell the story”, Templeton explains, “how to arc it and stretch it to the music, so that it keeps the viewer’s attention, and doesn’t just fill time but builds visual sequences that correspond to each musical theme.”

Templeton decided early on to abandon the narration, and even dropped any dialogue after an epiphany at a Pet Shop Boys and Sigur Ros concert.  “I was just about to come to Poland and I suddenly decided to get rid of all the dialogue.  I thought it has to be silent.  It has to work just with the music.”

Scripting and storyboarding the animation was unquestionably the hardest part.  The script went through 22 drafts and took two years to reach the final draft.  An animatic was created: a storyboard of computer-generated images of the entire movie that the animators would then deliver their rushes to.  Then came the physical delivery:  five months of building sets and puppets that would breathe life into this meticulously prepared plan.

Templeton has had a first-rate team at her disposal.  Lodz is home to both Poland’s national film school and fine art school; many of the crew have come from this background.  Marek Skrobecki is the production designer who has somehow managed to translate Templeton’s vision into reality.  He constructed a 60ft-long forest, using 1,700 real baby trees that he sourced in forests outside Lodz, each sewn into the snow-capped trunk of a landscape built with polystyrene and wood.

Four more months were spent building the nameless Russian city that Peter wanders into later in the story; it is staggering to witness the detail of its crumbling brick and graffitied cars.  “I considered at the beginning basing it in an indeterminate place,” says Templeton, “but I decided I wanted to capture that Russian spirit, because it’s a Russian piece, isn’t it?”

A visit of Moscow while writing the film to research the necessary look and feel led to a Peter who is part- Russian and part-otherworldly.  Lead sculptor Ewa Maliszewka went through nine versions until her director was satisfied.  “He’s an exquisite puppet”, says Templeton.  “He’s beautifully made, beautifully proportioned- about 30cm high, which is the perfect size for a puppet.  His face is so expressive and you can just do the subtlest movements and it will give a very intense emotion.”  The little animals who surround Peter on screen are equally wondrous to behold.  Each has been sculpted and painted to perfection, stitched and dressed with real furs that Templeton found in Lodz’s textile factories.

Each animal was painstakingly researched -its look and movement- with time spent at a wolf conservation centre outside Reading.  It was time well-spent; part of the joy of this film is the depth of characterization that Templeton has achieved: the wolf, sleekly and slyly shifting himself about the screen; the little duck, flapping and waddling about the ice rink.

High-definition cameras have been used to capture the movement.  On each set that is being animated -typically four at once- there is a camera set up on a tripod ready to photograph, frame by frame.  The director of photography, Hugh Gordon, carefully sets up each shot.  Tim Burton used these same cameras for the Corpse Bride.  The level of detail they achieve- the brilliance of colour and clarity- is arresting.  It’s needed for the image to play out on a 20m screen (bigger than any in Leicester Square).

It’s not just the Royal Albert Hall that will stage this film.  Concert halls and orchestras around the world have been bidding for performance rights.  Jan Younghusband from Channel 4 got on board early, kicking off financing, and securing the film for a primetime Christmas release on Channel 4 this year.  She has just returned from Poland herself, checking out progress on the film she invested in.

It was worth it.  An early edit shows a level of care, sensitivity and imagination that matches even Prokofiev’s work.  “The real challenge for us as film-makers has been to do something that rises to the drama of Prokofiev’s music,” says Dewhurst, “ to make an engaging visual drama that plays successfully with the music and doesn’t merely illustrate it.  That has taken us literally years.”…

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The Times – Peter and the Wolf

Neil Fisher

Peter and the Wolf.  The Wolf and Peter.  Sooner or later someone was going to reinterpret a seemingly straightforward relationship.  Shouldn’t Prokofiev’s glowering wolf be allowed to eat that careless duck, oboe accompaniment or not?  And what gives Peter the right to trap the beast just for obeying its animal instincts?

The makers of a new animated adaptation of the classic fable have clearly thought long and hard about these questions.  And, judging by the delighted gasps of the audience at Saturday night’s premiere, the new film (directed by Suzie Templeton) has come up with just the right sort of answers.

There’s no narrator in this version, but the story is clearer than ever.  Peter is trapped in what looks like a makeshift army barracks by his terrifying grandfather.  Outside is a decaying urban sprawl, where the normally jolly huntsmen are drunken squaddies.  And yet it’s the countryside, with its dangerously inviting frozen lakes and giant, gnarled oaks, that the old man unsuccessfully tries to prevent Peter exploring.

So it’s little surprise to find that Peter ends up putting wolf above man, even if the beast has just taken such obvious pleasure in swallowing up his anatine pal.  But Templeton’s vivid animation reminds us that the two have plenty in common, not least their piercing blue eyes: they’re outsiders, and ultimately need to stick together.

Thankfully Templeton also makes plenty of room for humour.  No narrator could ever make grandfather’s cat this fat and self-important, or draw as many giggles from the duck’s high-spirited exploits moments before his untimely demise.  Out on DVD from November 6, this Peter should make lots of little wolf-cubs very content come Christmas.

Any other business?  Before their perfectly judged live accompaniment to the new film, the Philharmonia ploughed through two crowd-pleasers under the conductor Mark Stephenson.  Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 was a fairly crude affair, despite some moments of sensitivity from the soloist Eduard Kunz.  Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, delivered up in the Ravel orchestration, trundled along well enough, but can’t Templeton be persuaded to animate that piece as well?  I’d pay good money to see Baba-Yaga in her mortar and pestle as well as hear her.

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Peter & The Wolf

“The joy of this film is the care, sensitivity and imagination that matches even Prokofiev’s work.”
THE INDEPENDENT

“A memorably stylised piece … with moments of haunting grace.”
RADIO TIMES

“Vivid animation … delighted the audience: this Peter should make lots of little wolf-cubs very content.”
THE TIMES

This much-loved tale has resonated deeply with over five generations of children, enchanted by its power and sense of fun. This fantastical new version by prize-winning director Suzie Templeton, specially made to be seen internationally both on TV and DVD as well as to be screened theatrically in concert halls worldwide accompanied by live orchestras, is set to delight a whole new audience.

BreakThru Films’ innovative animated film version of Prokofiev’s classic work, set to a new recording by the world-renowned Philharmonia Orchestra, was produced at the Oscar ®-winning Se-ma-for Studios in Poland using stop-frame model animation (the technique popularised by Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations) and state-of-the-art digital technology.…

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