If the phrase "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River all set about with fever-trees" rings a bell, you probably have at least a passing familiarity with Rudyard Kipling's classic tale, The Elephant's Child. If you are not familiar with either phrase or story, I recommend you rectify the situation immediately because you are missing out on one of the gems of children's literature and English language storytelling.
The Elephant's Child is one in a collection of stories created by Mr. Kipling to explain to his children how certain things, like the elephant's trunk, the leopard's spots and the rhinoceros' skin came to be. In 1902 the stories were published as a collection called Just So Stories. In our modern age Kipling's delightfully entertaining stories found new audiences first on the popular National Public Radio show, Rabbit Ears Radio, followed by a video format of the same name. These Rabbit Ears Radio video productions are rare and precious examples of books adapted to film that get everything exactly right.
One of the reason these productions are so satisfying is because they are the closest thing to reading the original as one can get. The productions, which range from the aforementioned Kipling stories to classic American, Irish, and Chinese folktales to Bible stories, to name a few, all proceed in similar fashion, which is like turning the pages of a book. They are not animated, but illustrated, and an actor particularly suited to the specific tale reads each one. Additionally, musicians of the highest caliber have composed and performed the soundtracks.
For example: The Elephant's Child, How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin and How the Camel Got His Hump are illustrated by Tim Raglin; the music is by Bobby McFerrin and his Voicestra; the readings are by none other than Jack Nicholson, whose voice is now forever connected in my mind to these stories. The tale of Pecos Bill is also illustrated by Tim Raglin, but Ry Cooder provides the original music and Robin Williams serves as narrator. Sigourney Weaver narrates Peach Boy, a Japanese folk tale, and is accompanied by the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Every one of the vast library of Rabbit Ears Radio productions is the result of meticulous artistry and magical chemistry. They are great, on every level, for every age group. They expose kids and their parents to stories -- with which they may, or may not, already be familiar -- in new and exciting ways without sacrificing any of the quality that makes them great, classic stories to begin with. As I see it, Rabbit Ears Radio Productions are the perfect melding of past and present and prove again that a good story is ageless and timeless. These factors, along with the relatively brief running time of the individual productions, combine to make Rabbit Ears Radio's video productions one of my favorite family standbys.