Hansel & Gretel (movie)

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Hansel & Gretel
Poster blank.png
Directed by Whit Jolley
Produced by Whit Jolley
Written by Whit Jolley
Starring Hansel
Gretel
Magic Wanda
Studio Whit Jolley Animation
Release date December 18th, 66 BBO
Running time 87 minutes

Hansel & Gretel is a feature-length all-toon movie from Whit Jolley Animation, the first of its kind in Hollywood history. It retells the classic fairy tale story where a pair of abandoned children encounter a gingerbread house occupied by a sinister witch.

Plot

Hansel and Gretel are twins living on the edge of a once-bountiful forest. Their parents are woodcutters who are having trouble putting food on the table due to the forest becoming withered and hostile, and are uncertain of the reason why. In the middle of the night, Hansel overhears them talk late at night of the family's struggles, and becomes determined to find a way to help. He and his sister sneak out of the house the following night, determined to find treasure or some other solution to their poverty ("Whatever We'll Find"). As they make their way through the forest they leave a trail of breadcrumbs to help them find their way back home.

However, the forest is not as lifeless as they had thought, and the twins are chased by a flock of angry crows who have been lured in by the breadcrumb trail. They save themselves by throwing the bread away, but end up hopelessly lost. As the pair wander through the dark wood, their overactive imaginations begin to play tricks on them ("Something in the Dark"). Tired and frightened, Hansel and Gretel find shelter in the hollow of an old tree and settle down to sleep.

When the sun rises in the morning, the twins are astonished to find that just nearby is a cozy-looking cottage in a clearing. Although Gretel is initially wary of the cottage, both children are delighted to find that it is made out of gingerbread and candy. Although they are caught red-handed taking bites out of the house, the owner invites them in for even better treats ("All You Can Eat"). Once inside, the twins find the way out is not so easy, as the cottage itself comes to life. Hansel is bundled off to the coal cellar, and Gretel is chained to the kitchen stove. The owner of the cottage reveals herself to be a witch, and informs them that they will both be helping out in the kitchen.

In the coal cellar, Hansel is surprised that he's being fed generously, until the witch lets slip that he's being fattened up ("All You Can Eat, Reprise"). Thinking quickly, he holds onto the bone from a chicken leg. Every time the witch reaches into the dark cellar to check on him, he lets her feel the bone instead, fooling her into thinking he's stringy and unappetizing. Meanwhile, Gretel is taught how to be a scullery maid, with her main responsibility ensuring that the oven remains clean ("Spotless").

After a week, the witch's patience has worn thin, and she decides that she'll have to make do with Hansel "as a stew or soup" instead. When she tries to pull him out of the coal cellar by his "finger", she yanks the chicken bone from his grasp and reveals his deception. Furious, she drags him all the way upstairs to the kitchen, demanding Gretel light the stove. Immediately aware of the impending danger, Gretel claims that she isn't finished cleaning the oven yet. The witch demands to know where, as it looks fine to her, and Gretel points at the very back. As the witch tries to get a better look, Gretel slams the oven door behind her. In the middle of rescuing her brother, the oven comes to life, and the house begins to rot away and crumble before their eyes.

Soon they are left alone in a clearing with the oven, now rusted-out and ancient, with thick smoke pouring from the top. The smoke becomes storm clouds and it begins to rain, bringing life back to the forest. The trees become green and leafy again, and animals emerge. The flock of crows returns, but this time to lead Hansel and Gretel all the way home ("Happily Ever After").

Production

The idea of a feature-length, all-toon picture was considered such a bad idea in Hollywood that during production the film was known as "Jolley's folly". Jolley found it difficult to find experienced stage crew willing to work on the picture, and as a result over half the technical positions were occupied by juniors and interns. The lack of industry confidence in his idea sent Jolley into frequent depressive moods, but he persevered with his vision. Magic Wanda, drawn by Jolley himself for the role of the Witch, provided a lot of comfort and support to him during shooting. It was her suggestion to switch up the big villain number, "All You Can Eat", to be a bombastic jazzy tune rather than the more slow-paced operatic take that was lead songwriter Winston Wallace's initial take.

Whit Jolley Corporation
Founders Whit Jolley
Theatrical animated features Hansel & Gretel (66 BBO) ★ Jack & the Beanstalk (64 BBO) ★ Dick Whittington (62 BBO) ★ Rumpelstiltskin (60 BBO) ★ Paul Bunyan (58 BBO) ★ John Henry (57 BBO) ★ Calamity Jane (56 BBO) ★ The Snow Queen (54 BBO) ★ The Court of Camelot (51 BBO) ★ 1001 Nights (47 BBO) ★ Gulliver's Travels (44 BBO) ★ The Adventures of Tom Thumb (43 BBO)