Sergei Prokofiev's children's symphony Peter And The Wolf has been adapted to film and television multiple times, and has become such a common part of elementary-school curricula that it hardly seems worth revisiting the piece yet again. But there's never been a Peter And The Wolf like Suzie Templeton's Oscar-winning 2006 short. It isn't just that Templeton's Peter is a little darker than most; it also adds a layer of thematic depth that's about more than identifying which instrument represents which character.
Opening with a lengthy silent sequence—and eschewing narration throughout its 30-minute running time—Templeton's "Peter & The Wolf" makes its Russian setting more paramount, emphasizing the hardscrabble existence of the adventurous Peter and his overprotective grandfather. This Peter wears an expression of burned-in resentment over his lot in life, though during the time he spends frolicking with his animal friends in the woods, Peter comes to realize that even nature has its bullies: Birds chase each other, a cat chases the birds, the wolf chases the cat, hunters chase the wolf, and so on. Though Templeton's insistence on keeping her short film dialogue-free makes the action and the motivation a little obscure at times, her "Peter & The Wolf" carries a pervasive, profound sense of life's fundamental unfairness. And in keeping with that sense of injustice, Templeton tinkers with Prokofiev's ending, aiming for something that's less pat and triumphant, and more reflective of the growing kinship Peter feels with the feral.
Key features: Extensive looks at the animation process—including a fascinating Templeton commentary over a partially complete version of the film—plus the obligatory instrument-to-character key.