Weston Woods is turning 60 this year! In honor of the occasion the company has created a new 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition DVD. The hour-long special collection “includes six of [their] most beloved titles from the last 10 years”: Arnie the Doughnut, No Roses for Harry!, Wild About Books, Dem Bones, That New Animal, and classic fairy tale The Elves and the Shoemaker. These are six very different books, but the variety means this compilation will appeal to a lot of viewers. Of special note: the humorous outtakes at the end of Wild About Books; the lively animation of Dem Bones (it’s actually easier to follow the concepts from the song in the video than it is in the original book); author Emily Jenkins’s narration of That New Animal; and actor Patrick Stewart’s dynamic narration of The Elves and the Shoemaker.
Of their seventeen anniversary-year releases, I particularly enjoyed how Weston Woods turned LMNO Peas into a catchy song sung by Billy Joel’s backup singer Crystal Taliefero, while New Orleans-based blues musician Chris Thomas King provides the narration and soundtrack for The Ant and the Grasshopper. The animation in My Garden, And Then It’s Spring, and I Want My Hat Back and the narration of Bink & Gollie: Two for One and Creepy Carrots! really capture the spirit of each book. The latter DVD includes a Twilight Zone spoof called “The Creepy Carrot Zone” in which illustrator Peter Brown discusses his creative process. Other bonus features worth noting are illustrator Erin E. Stead’s art demonstration for Bear Has a Story to Tell, author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s bookmaking workshop for Cloudette, and an additional animated short explaining how money works for Lemonade in Winter. In addition to the closed captioned and subtitled DVD format, all are available as single audio CDs or hardcover picture book/CD combos and available for purchase on the Weston Woods website.
I fondly remember watching Weston Woods videos as a kid and am still fascinated by how they bring each book to life. They transform and deepen the stories to create a unique audiovisual experience while remaining true to the original picture books. If you’re interested in learning more about the company’s history, check out Imagination and Innovation: The Story of Weston Woods by John Cech (Scholastic, 2009). Congratulations to the studio on this momentous achievement — and here’s to many more years of quality children’s book short films!
For those of you in the Boston area: Weston Woods is celebrating its anniversary this weekend with a film screening, anniversary cake, and an appearance by Ed and Rebecca Emberley. The event will be held at Belmont’s Studio Cinema on Saturday and Sunday, November 23rd and 24th, from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.
Arnie the Doughnut, written and illus. by Laurie Keller, narr. by Michael McKean with Diana Canova, David de Vries, and others
No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion, illus. by Margaret Bloy Graham, narr. by Bruce Johnson
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, illus. by Marc Brown, narr. by Catherine O’Hara
Dem Bones, written and illus. by Bob Barner, narr. by Chris Thomas King
That New Animal, written and narr. by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Pierre Pratt
The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm, retold and illus. by Jim LaMarche, narr. by Patrick Stewart
LMNO Peas, written and illus. by Keith Baker, narr. by Crystal Taliefero
The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberley, illus. by Ed Emberley, narr. by Chris Thomas King
My Garden, written and illus. by Kevin Henkes, narr. by Cassandra Morris
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin E. Stead, narr. by Ron McLarty
Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. by Tony Fucile, narr. by Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome with Jon Carroll, David de Vries, and Wendy Carter
I Want My Hat Back, written and illus. by Jon Klassen, narr. by Daniel Pinkwater
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown, narr. by James Naughton
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead, narr. by Mike Birbiglia
Cloudette, written and illus. by Tom Lichtenheld, narr. by Wendy Carter and others
Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins, illus. by G. Brian Karas, narr. by Rebecca Soler