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Painted Tales, Vol. 1 (In Winter Still / Almond Blossoms) - animated DVD / family and children's DVD / Blu-ray review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Director: Umesh Shukla Studio: Auryn Inc.
DVD release: 09 December 2008 Feature runtime: 86 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Animated, Color, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, Spanish, French), Subtitles (English, Spanish), Closed captioned, Audio commentary w/ directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, "Surviving Sid" (Ice Age short), Sneak peek at Ice Age 3

Painted Tales is an educational DVD series designed to teach art appreciation to children and pre-teens. The approach: each tale stars a legendary painter and, through vibrant computer animation, weaves or her paintings into a work of fiction, often using a famous short story as its basis. The animation brings many painted masterpieces to life and interweaves some biography of each painter into each story. This unique approach is quite involving and effective.

Volume One of the Painted Tales series contains two short films. The first one, "Winter Still," weaves the true account of Claude Monet's years spent painting in his famous garden in Giverney, France, within the "blueprint" of the short story "The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde. In this interpretation, a selfish gardener bans children from playing in Monet's garden, which causes a harsh, unending winter from which the garden cannot recover. Only a small child seems to have the power to awaken Monet's garden.

The second story, "Almond Blossoms," weaves the story of Vincent Van Gogh into O. Henry's short story "The Last Leaf." The story is narrated by a little girl named Marguerite Gachet (in real life, the daughter of Van Gogh's doctor while he was interred in a mental institution). This sweet story imagines how Van Gogh comes to the aid of his young friend and shows her how art can indeed sometimes save lives.

Though both short stories (each roughly 10 minutes long) are involving, it is the animation by the producers, Auryn, Inc., that is by far the most impressive aspect of this DVD. Not only are the masterworks (such as Monet's "Water Lilies" and Van Gogh's "The Starry Night") seen in each story, but, rather amazingly, each is animated in the style of each painter. Monet's amazing gift for capturing nature in its natural light and Van Gogh's vibrant, almost breathing brushstrokes are brilliantly incorporated into each tale. It is clear that a lot of work and creativity went into bringing the works of these masters to life.

In short, this DVD is a strong start to the Painted Tales series and would be an effective teaching tool, both for children and adults (I enjoyed watching them by myself). Highly recommended.

Each tale includes a brief but informative text biography of each master.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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