This utterly charming, 30-minute rendering of Prokofiev's classic "Peter and the Wolf" won this year's Oscar for Best Animated Short – for good reason. The stop-motion technique, involving lovingly detailed puppets and mind-numbingly patient work is engaging and unusual.
The value added by viewing this film in the "Great Performances" umbrella series of PBS (March 26, 8 p.m.) is getting to observe the effort the behind the creative process during an additional half hour of interviews with the filmmakers. We learn just how painstaking the work really was: An entire day's work of moving puppets in front of a camera added up to no more than a second-and-a-half of final screen time. The assembled team worked on the film for more than five years. Once the viewer understands just how hard this format is to create, it seems a worthy fit for the serious and elegant classical music it brings to life. Viewers who love the familiar music, which was created as an educational tour of key orchestral instruments (duck, bird, and cat represented by oboe, flute, and clarinet respectively) will appreciate the animators' respect for Prokofiev's intentions. This is no simple cartoon short. It is as much a work of art as the music itself. Grade: A – Gloria Goodale