We’ve all heard a story of a big bad wolf at some point in our lives. Whether the classic Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs, wolves have a solid grasp on the fairytale market. Peter and the Wolf, a new animated short developed by Gavin Friday and Alistair Norbury, is no exception. This story, however, has a slightly different perspective to offer.
Based on U2 singer Bono’s original illustrations and Gavin Friday’s interpretation of the 1937 symphonic fairytale, Peter and the Wolf is certainly a unique project. With a new arrangement of the original Sergey Prokofiev score by Maurice Seezer and Gavin Friday and animation by BMG and Blink Industries, this short certainly has a lot of talent behind it.
[Warning: spoilers from Peter and the Wolf are below!]
A different take on the Big Bad Wolf
This is one of those fairytales with slightly darker subject matter. It’s very “Bambi watching his mother getting shot.” We follow Peter, a young boy moving in with his grandfather after the death of his mother. The film does a great job hinting at what’s going on in his mind without ever outright saying it. It’s implied Peter’s mother has died from an illness, and so now Peter is looking for more concrete demons to fight. He chooses the wolf.
Although it’s a story about loss, the film is still pretty light. Peter’s attempts to find a weapon for his wolf-hunting needs are shown side by side with the shenanigans of his animal friends. The characters of duck, cat, and bird for the most part keep things fairly whimsical. The duck in particular is a very funny little fella. If you like a little bit of old-fashioned silly animal comedy, you’ll like this.
That being said, the wolf certainly brings with her a fair amount of danger and action. Her character design is markedly different from all other characters, overlaid with Peter’s drawings of her. This wolf visually and narratively sticks out like a sore thumb from the light comedy of the other characters but in a good way! There’s an active threat of death underneath the childlike story. The lives of these goofy characters are in real danger.
It’s a great metaphor for Peter’s own struggle as a child processing grief. He has to protect his animal sidekicks from the maws of the Big Bad Wolf and learn about how his grief can cloud his judgment. After all, as the film says, wolves can come in many disguises. Peter and the Wolf is a look into how we find our own wolves in the world, and how we can shift our view to instead find community and love. It’s an entertaining isolated story with a heartfelt message.
The captivating production of Peter and the Wolf
It’s no surprise that this film is incredibly well-made. That becomes clear within the first minute of watching. From the get-go, the production quality starts blasting on all cylinders.
First off, let’s talk sound. This is a story based on a symphony: if the sound design doesn’t impress what is the point of making the film at all? The captivating narration of Gavin Friday and music performed by The Friday Seezer Ensemble, Peter and the Wolf sounds absolutely amazing. I could listen to Gavin Friday’s voice describe paint drying. Hearing him narrate a fairytale was nothing short of delightful.
Likewise, the score is lovely and full of little details. Whenever the character of the bird opened its beak and the sound of woodwinds came out instead of chirps I couldn’t help but smile. The music acting as both background and some dialogue is a great touch. Peter and the Wolf could have easily fallen into the trap of being simply about the music, with the visuals left by the wayside. Thankfully, the score only bolsters the incredible visuals. The music and the animation both stand well on their own, but the combination of them is wonderful to watch.
And oh my god, the visuals are wonderful. My jaw dropped a few times. With a mix of some live-action scenes, miniature sets, and 2D animation, this film is a mixed media delight. The character animation is captivatingly smooth, the designs (adapted from Bono’s illustration by Julien Becquer) are charming, and the miniature sets are fantastic to watch in tandem with the 2D.
The animation balances the tone of childlike charm with a more adult quality. There are plenty of cutesy animal designs and animations of silly ducks waddling about in goggles. At the same time, Peter and the Wolf brings a certain edge to the fairytale vibe. The short is completely in black and white with hints of red. Violence stands out much more on a screen when red is the only color available. All and all, it’s a good mix that allows the similarly tone-balanced story to shine through.
Peter and the Wolf is a gorgeously made film with a touching message. If you’re a fan of fairytales, symphonies, or just some plain good animation I would absolutely recommend it.
When and where to watch Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf will be available to stream on October 19th on Max. Are you planning to watch? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!