Wyrd Sisters Review
Originally produced for Channel 4 in six parts, this animation tells a classic Terry Pratchett Discworld tale. The animation is simple – produced by Cosgrove Hall (who brought us Danger Mouse, amongst others) – yet the tale itself is an intricate one. The story follows a coven of three witches, Granny Weatherwax (stern and severe), Nanny Ogg (earthy, with a large family) and Magrat Garlick (young, dippy and new age) and follows their involvement in state politics when the local king is murdered and his infant son smuggled out of the castle. It’s a parody of Macbeth (easily illustrated by the witches ‘When shall we three meet again?’ opening speech) and of the countless other Shakespearean plot twists and devices. This is highlighted by the inclusion of travelling players, fools, and theatrical pieces, which the older witches have to learn are ‘make believe’. The story encompasses ghosts, time travel, magic and intrigue all dotted with Pratchett witticisms, puns and hilarity. Christopher Lee also makes an appearance as Death, one of the most loved of all of Pratchett’s regular characters.
The adaptation works well; the story is still convoluted, but seeing it on screen helps to untie some of the tangles of the book. As with all animations and dearly loved book adaptations, there are visuals that may not tie in with your view of favourite characters. In my opinion, these are made up for by the adherence to the wit and story of the original – although I quite liked the characterisations in Wyrd Sisters. As with Soul Music, the background of the text menu is the lovingly CGI’d form of the giant A’Tuin (a giant tortoise for those unfamiliar with the books) carrying the Discworld across the skies. Prachett fans should love this. Non-fans, or those with no previous knowledge of the books may find the storyline a little more confusing than that of Soul Music, but it’s still told well and things are explained within the telling, making it accessible to fans and non-fans alike. The voice cast is excellent with Christopher Lee taking the role of Death, and June Whitfield and Jane Horrocks voicing two of the witch triad.
One of the features offered by Wyrd Sisters is the ability to play the entire story as a film, rather than having to break for the end of each episode. While this makes for a rather long viewing session, it’s certainly welcome.
It’s animation and the transfer is good, the pictures are sharp and colours stand out well. Backgrounds fade into the background, allowing the characters to take centre stage and while there’s nothing ground-breaking, it’s well presented.
Sound is presented in Dolby Digital and is, on the whole, clean. When the witches are watching a play going on, you can hear the very faint noise of the actors playing very low behind the main characters’ voices, which, adds a nice level of detail through sound. Occasionally background music intrudes on the spoken voices, but, in general, the sound is adequate for the presentation.
Terry Pratchett – A text biography of the author spread over 5 ‘pages’ and giving a taste of his humour and the style of biographies he writes for his novels. A nice addition, but static and hardly exciting.
Welcome to the Discworld – Similar to the Pilot on the Soul Music DVD, this opens with the CGI animation of A’Tuin and the introduction to the Discworld. Unlike the Soul Music DVD, however, it cuts off after the narration about A’Tuin and the Discworld which leaves it as a very brief extra, nice, but again, nothing exciting and more of a tease than anything else.
Wyrd Sisters Characters – Brief comments of 9 characters, in a well-presented text format. The comments are very brief and only refer to character information that can be gleaned from Wyrd Sisters. It would have been nice to see extra information added, or a list of books they appear in, for those interested, but it’s not too bad an effort, and at least all the main characters are covered.
Wyrd Sisters Storyboards – A presentation of 12 storyboards from throughout the story. You can expand the pictures and also view notes on them, which are quite interesting.
Discworld Books – Another text section, listing all the Discworld books to date – it’s fairly comprehensive though it only stretches to 2000, and ‘The Fifth Elephant’. A nice addition here is the presentation of some of the UK book covers (much nicer than the US ones) – but when they say “selected”, they really only mean three, and again they could have included them all for a more interesting and useful feature.
Weblinks – Provides three links to useful sites on the Web for finding out more about Discworld.
While not one of my personal favourite Discworld stories, Wyrd Sisters is well-adapted by Cosgrove Hall and the subsequent ‘film’ presentation is a lot of fun, capturing much of the humour of the original book. The extras aren’t much of a bonus and certainly not worth buying the disk for, but I imagine a lot of people will buy it for it’s intrinsic entertainment value rather than the extras included with it. Pratchett fans will find it an essential purchase as the first rendition of a Discworld novel to the screen (albeit the small screen). It’s also a pretty good entrance into the Discworld for those as yet unfamiliar with its charms and humour, mainly because it’s taken from a fairly early novel in the series, and gives a good overview of characters that are to appear in many of the other books. Plus, it has Greebo the cat in (I know, I know, people probably have no idea who that is, but it made the disk for me!). I would have liked to know more about the cast and that’s probably my biggest complaint (along with drabness of extras).