New from Sony Home Entertainment comes the complete series of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller starring Mr. Elephant Man himself, John Hurt, and a slew of eye-popping creations from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The series focuses on classic folk tales, fables, and legends, including “Fearnot,” “The Heartless Giant,” “The Three Ravens,” and six other wonderful family-friendly tales on one disc. Also provided as part of the set is an additional disc entitled Greek Myths, which provides even more Henson-esque entertainment with the following four tales: “Daedalus and Icarus,” “Orpheus and Eurydice,” “Perseus and the Gorgon,” and “Theseus and the Minotaur.” There are thirteen episodes in all. Henson’s typical production efficiency is present in each episode. His craftsmen always make the most of their miniscule budgets, and their work offers a refreshing break from these days of CGI-heavy effects.
What’s so great about this series is its willingness to incorporate a myriad of cultural folk tales, many of which may be foreign to first-time viewers. Taking its selection from Greece, Russia, and Germany, the series never reached its full potential on account of the short run. However, it manages to educate and entertain children of all ages, and endures as a fine piece of family programming despite its brevity. Hurt is fabulous as usual, really sinking his teeth into the narrator role and telling each tale with an enthusiastic punch in his voice. Brian Henson also does a fine job voicing The Storyteller’s cynically fearful dog. While effects may have advanced much since 1988, Creature Shop create a lovable character in the talking mutt, which is sure to enthrall younger viewers. Thankfully, these two characters are able to relate to that crowd without talking down to them. One last thing: watch for a minion of fine actors in early roles, including Gabrielle Anwar, Miranda Richardson, Joely Richardson, Alison Doody, and Jonathan Pryce.
The series is nearly twenty years old, and it shows. Unfortunate amounts of grain accompany each episode. There is very little mastering here, but the visuals of the show still manage to offer something dynamic, and are sure not to disappoint fans of Henson. Contrast is dull; colors are washed out. I can’t help thinking more restoration could have been done, but fans of the series will simply be pleased to find the show released on digital. With a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it run, Storyteller was in danger of being forgotten.
Only presented with a 2.0 English track, The Storyteller‘s audio surpasses its video, but still seems a little soft. Luckily, the show isn’t too needy, and its dialogue levels maintain a consistently high volume throughout. The special effects are there, but they don’t come with a barrage of sound bytes accompanying them, so we’re not missing anything. Bass and music perform with the right amount of whimsy you would expect from a Henson production. All in all, this track does a respectable job managing the show’s untouched aging process.
None to be found.
This series reminds me of why I respect Jim Henson. His body of work stands as the testament of one, who created for the sake of creating. Money never seemed to be his first motivator. One need only look at The Storyteller as proof. The show built only a small audience and never achieved heavy amounts of success. Still, he produced it because he was passionate about it, and now 18 years later, the show is sure to endure in the hearts of its old fans and a new throng, who may discover it. The audience may always stay small, but at least it will stay, period. And it will stay because passion is contagious, and if it’s mixed with consistency, the by-product is bound to take root. The A/V presentation and bonus materials are lagging, so the work will have to stand alone. But in this case, that shouldn’t be a problem.