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Shakespeare Animated

By: Anatoly Joachim M. Limos, BA English Studies: Literature

University of the Philippines – Diliman

Disclaimer – The images provided in this post are intended for educational purposes only. These video screenshots come from Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.

Finding the Bard in different forms of media is not a rare occurrence. Most, if not all of Shakespeare’s works have been adapted into film, dance, musicals, and other literary genres. A few years back, I was fortunate enough to watch animated adaptations of The Tempest and Hamlet in my previous Shakespeare classes. Both belonged to a series of animated Shakespeare plays called Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. The series was conceived in 1989 by Christopher Grace, head of animation at S4C, a Welsh television channel. Production was coordinated by the Dave Edwards Studio in Cardiff, Wales, although the shows were animated by Soyuzmultfilm, a Russian animation studio based in Moscow.

A poster of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (1992)

A poster of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (1992)

A major part of this project is its educational aspect. This series was made available to schools as it fit the notion of introducing children to Shakespeare for the first time (Osborne 121). All in all, the creators of this series sought “to educate their audience into an appreciation and love of Shakespeare, out of a conviction of Shakespeare as a cultural artifact available to all, not restricted to a narrowly defined form of performance. Screened in dozens of countries, The Animated Tales is Shakespeare as cultural educational television available to all…” (Holland 44). Through works like Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, we see how artists and other creative minds spread their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Shakespeare to a wider audience by translating his works into different forms of media.

Hamlet and Horatio in the animated adaptation of "Hamlet"

Hamlet and Horatio in Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1

The Duke of Gloucester, later known as King Richard III in Richard III

The Duke of Gloucester, later known as King Richard in Richard III.

Rosalind in the animated adaptation of As You Like It.

Rosalind in As You Like It.

A remarkable aspect of these animated adaptations is that they are products of “paint-on-glass” animation. Paint-on-glass animation is a technique for making animated films by manipulating some kind of wet, slow-drying media on sheets of glass. Oil paint is most often used because it dries very slowly, enabling the animator to keep working with the medium for several days. This technique is said to “impart a unique quality and richness to the animation that comes not only through the distinctive graphic look that the characteristic of medium itself imparts to the image, but also from the individual personal approach of the animator and the way she or he is obliged to make things move”. As the medium is pushed around directly under the camera and recorded frame-by frame, each image merges from the previous one and “melt into the next resulting in movement that can be very fluid and organic – a continual process of metamorphosis”. Characters may move from place from place not by walking, but by “being smudged away to re-form out of the background at the required location”. A well-known practitioner of this technique is the Russian animator Aleksandr Petrov who has used it in several award-winning films.

Viola and Sebastian reunited in the animated adaptation of Twelfth Night

Viola and Sebastian reunited in Twelfth Night

Katherina in the animated adaptation of The Taming Of The Shrew

Katherina in The Taming Of The Shrew

Prospero and Miranda in the animated adaptation of The Tempest

Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest

This other set of adaptations are a product of stop motion puppet animation. Stop motion is a technique used in animation to bring static objects to life on screen. This involves physically manipulating objects to make them appear like they are moving on their own. Objects are moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when all frames are played as a continuous sequence. Puppets, movable dolls, miniatures, or clay figures are often used as they can easily be handled and repositioned.

Sources: 

Holland, Peter. “Shakespeare Abbreviated”. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Popular Culture. Ed. Shaughnessy, Robert . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. p. 26-44. PDF.

Osborne, Laurie E. “Poetry in Motion: Animating Shakespeare”. Shakespeare, The Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV and Video. Ed. Boose, Lynda E. London: Routledge, 2005. p. 106-121. PDF.

“Paint-On-Glass”. Center for Animation and Interactive Media. RMIT University, n.d. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

“Stop Motion Animation”. techopedia. Janalta Interactive Inc., n.d. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

“Poster of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales”. IMDb.com, n.d. Photograph. 5 Nov 2015.

eus347. “Shakespeare_The Animated Tales – As You Like It”. Online video clip.
Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Oct 2014. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

eus347. “Shakespeare_The Animated Tales – Hamlet”. Online video clip.
Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Oct 2014. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

eus347. “Shakespeare_The Animated Tales – King Richard III”. Online video clip.
Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Oct 2014. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

eus347. “Shakespeare_The Animated Tales – The Taming of the Shrew”. Online video clip.
Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Oct 2014. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

eus347. “Shakespeare_The Animated Tales – Twelfth Night”. Online video clip.
Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Oct 2014. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

rebhas. “The Tempest”. Online video clip. Dailymotion. Dailymotion, Nov 2009. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

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