The Beatrix Potter Collection Review
Perhaps most famous for Peter Rabbit, who was something of a troubled bunny with his insisting on going into Farmer McGregor's vegetable patch, Beatrix Potter was born in England in July 1866 and grew up fascinated by the natural world around her. During family holidays in the Lake District, she would leave the house in which they were staying and spend her days walking through the countryside, where she worked both on the stories for which she's best known as well as a series of scientific papers. Unfortunately, given the era and her sex, her uncle was forced to present these on her behalf and without giving her credit and so Potter has become remembered solely for her works of fiction featuring not only Peter Rabbit (first published in 1902) but also the Flopsy Bunnies, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Pigling Bland.
Produced by the BBC from 1992 through to 1995 and starring Niamh Cusack as Beatrix Potter - live action sequences with the actor completing her tales bookend each twenty-five-minute episode - this three-disc set includes fifteen of Potter's stories adapted through animation. In almost all respects, they have done a very good job with them, ensuring that the charming watercolours produced by Potter have influenced the animation as well as giving a clear voice to Potter's original stories. Indeed, these are undoubtedly the best adaptations of Potter's work and although the live-action sequences have dated somewhat, the animated mid-section of each episode hasn't at all and retains all the simplicity of storytelling that ensure Potter's work remains well-read sixty-three years after her death.
The first disc, being The World Of Peter Rabbit And Friends that's also available as a single-disc release, includes not only the tale of Peter Rabbit and his adventures with Mr McGregor but also those of Benjamin Bunny, the Flopsy Bunnies, Mrs Tittle-Mouse, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Over three episodes, these six stories often work their way into one another with Benjamin Bunny finding himself alongside Peter Rabbit and back with Mr McGregor. But it's also fair to say that these are amongst Potter's best known stories, with there being few who can say that they have no knowledge of Tom Kitten and his trouble keeping his clothes clean, Jemima Puddle-Duck and her near-fatal misadventure with a crafty fox and the trouble Mrs. Tittlemouse has in keeping her house clean.
The other two discs in the set - unfortunately, the BBC only supplied two of the three discs in the set for review - are titled The Tale Of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle And Mr. Jeremy Fisher And Other Stories and The Tale Of Pigling Bland And Other Stories and contain nine other stories. The first of these sees Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny together once again alongside the stories of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jeremy Fisher, Mr Tod, Two Bad Mice and Beatrix Potter's retelling of Aesop's The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse. The last disc in this three-disc set changes format slightly, offering animated versions of only three stories, including those of Pigling Bland, Samuel Whiskers, which features Tom Kitten tied up and try to make a Roly-Poly pudding out of him, and The Tailor of Gloucester, which breaks with tradition by setting the live-action sequence at Christmas.
Being a mix of live-action and animation, The World Of Peter Rabbit And Friends is something of a mix bag. The animated sequences are often very good, though often presenting the style of watercolour as being quite bland, but the live-action sequences are much less impressive, showing not only the limited budget but also a softness that leaves them looking as though they were only a last-minute addition to each episode and, as a result, carelessly made. However, within each episode, these don't last very long, which leaves the animation as the reason to enjoy these three discs and though this won't compare to the efforts of Disney, it really isn't at all bad for such a production. Each DVD offers a very decent presentation and though there's some noise in both the image and on the soundtrack, there's too little to be overly concerned about.
There are no extras on this release.
With Christmas in mind, the BBC have looked after the season with this also being made available as The World Of Peter Rabbit And Friends Gift Set, which not only includes all three discs but a plush soft Peter Rabbit toy. Granted, there is something here that might only appeal to nice, middle-class children - those who announce themselves bored at such brain-frazzling entertainment as the Power Rangers will likely not even make it through the opening credits - but these are sturdy adaptations of classic British stories and the kind of thing the BBC does so very well. They have done so again here.
Last updated: 23/06/2018 21:58:00