One of the 20th century’s greatest film score composers may be about to win an Oscar – 70 years after he wrote the music, and 53 years after his death. Suzie Templeton’s stop-motion retelling of Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev’s 1936 “symphonic fairy tale for children,” is nominated in the Animated Short Film category.
A longer, grittier Peter and the Wolf
As Peter’s fans expect, specific musical instruments represent characters in the story. But this version dispenses with Peter’s traditional celebrity narrator and tells the story entirely with music and imagery — this time, set in a somewhat grim, modern-day urban Russia rather than the canonical bucolic setting. Also unusual is the use of long silences, rather than a continuous performance. These silent periods bring the film’s running time to 29 minutes, twice the length of a the original concert work — and the 1946 Disney animated film.
Watch the Oscar-nominated animated short film Peter and the Wolf
Prokofiev’s story of one naughty kid who gloriously “gets away with it” is one of his most enduring works -- in its original form and in several adaptations and parodies.
Notable Narrators of Peter and the Wolf
A very incomplete list of English-language narrators on recorded performances includes Leonard Bernstein, David Bowie, Sean Connery, John De Lancy (Q!), Dom DeLuise, Dame Edna, Jose Ferrer, Jon Gielgud, Hermione Gingold, Alec Guinness, Melissa Joan Hart, Boris Karloff (Grinch!), Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), Christopher Lee, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Dudley Moore, Itzhak Perlman, André Previn, Ralph Richardson, Patrick Stewart, and Sting.
Even Prokofiev family members have lent their vocal talents to English recordings: the composer’s first wife, mezzo-soprano Lina Prokofieva (credited as Lina Prokofiev) on the Chandos Neemi Jarvi recording, son Oleg Prokofiev (a sculptor) & grandson Gabriel Prokofiev (an actor and musician) collaborate on the Hyperion recording under Ronald Corp’s baton.
Look who’s lent their vocal talents to Peter and the Wolf!
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Adaptations and Parodies of Peter and the Wolf
Comedic retellings have been crafted by Peter Shickele (“Sneeky Pete and the Wolf”), Weird Al Yankovic, and NPR’s “All Things Considered” (a “You Are There” style developing news treatment). Many American children already know the wolf’s brass theme as the leitmotiv for schoolyard bully Scut Farkus in the holiday favorite “A Christmas Story.”
In the tradition of Wicked (the book and musical defending the witches’ side of the Wizard of Oz story), Peter and the Wolf has even been retold from the wolf’s point of view in The Wolf and Peter by Jean-Pascal Beintus (narrated by Bill Clinton on the Russian National Orchestra’s Peter and the Wolf/Wolf Tracks album).
Updated Monday 7:23 AM: And the Oscar goes to Peter and the Wolf!