Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy
57 in x of animated feature film history
Release: Oct. 10th, 1954
Director: John Paul, Michael Myerberg
“This 1954 film is based on Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hänsel und Gretel, and contains many musical numbers. It was the first American feature-length animated film not made by Disney since 1941’s Mr. Bug Goes to Town.
After being sent out to the forest to harvest strawberries, siblings Hansel and Gretel are enticed by a witch living in a gingerbread house. Their parents soon realize where they’ve gone and venture after them.
Singer/comedian Anna Russell provides the voice of the witch, noted dramatic actress Mildred Dunnock provides the voice of Mother, and several noted opera singers of the time provide the voices of the other characters.
The stop-motion puppets were called ‘kinemins’ by producer Michael Myerberg. They took fifteen years to develop. The filmmakers used a secret chemical for ‘flesh’ and ‘hair’, and the characters had magnetized feet. They were also called ‘exemplary actors,’ and were able to duplicate natural movements, as well as a variety of facial expressions.
The film was sold to television only four years after it was released, where it became a Christmas season tradition on several affiliate stations. The film is considered a cult classic, and has been distributed on VHS many times.
Hansel and Gretel is available on Dailymotion.