The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. She whips a pistol from her knickers.
The animated film Revolting rhymes, based on the 1982 Roald Dahl collection of poems for children, co-animated by Cape Town-based Triggerfish, has picked up critical claim and several awards. It has just been nominated for a 2018 Oscar for best animated short. The film is deserving of all the praise.
First off, the animated version kept the dark and quirky nature of Roald Dahl’s writing, and even added to it. Woohoo! (Will we ever forgive Stephen Spielberg for what he did to The BFG? No.)
It is understandable that some lines were edited out, considering our current climate. For example, the following line spoken by the king, regarding the 1 000 girls who applied to be queen, was ditched: “I’d like to give each one a trial.” The rest of the dark, twisted, funny and charming lines were kept intact.
The Revolting rhymes book contains six free-standing poems that skewer the classic Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Jack and the beanstalk, Cinderella, Goldilocks and The three little pigs. For example, Cinderella’s prince beheads her evil stepsisters, and she promptly leaves him for a jam seller; the seven dwarfs are ex-racehorse jockeys, now broke gamblers; Little Red Riding Hood ditches her red cloak for a trophy wolf skin; etc.
The animated short combines the classic tales. For example, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood are chums; Porkley, one of the three little pigs, gives Little Red Riding Hood’s money to the other two little pigs to build houses from straw and twigs; etc. The overall arch is achieved through Wolf telling the “real”, more gory tales to the babysitter (of Little Red Riding Hood’s children). This allows for Dahl’s charming text to be included in narrated form.
The animation itself is perfectly matched with the text and bears a resemblance to the illustration of Quentin Blake, Dahl’s favourite illustrator. Although colourful, the colours are muted. The trees and grass are angled. (Look out for the trees when Show White’s mother is buried.) The architecture is boxy, but charming (Porkley’s building and office). People have round faces, round edges and mostly small feet. Snow White’s evil stepmother, Cinderella’s evil stepsisters and Jack’s evil mom all have bulging noses and exaggerated teeth. The list goes on.
There are hidden gems, especially when the evil characters are on screen. The antlers on the wall behind Miss Maclahose make her look like the devil; her manic energy, screaming and violence is wickedly funny; the king asleep with two maidens under each arm; the wolf finishing his meal of two little pigs by slurping up a curly tail; etc.
The Revolting rhymes short will delight loyal Dahl fans, but also intrigue a new generation of fans.