Posted: 09/01/2008

 

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

(1997)

by Katie Morris




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Terry Practchett’s fantasy world comes to cartoon-life in this Acorn Media release of two animated adaptations of his novels Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters. Originally produced for British television, this release comes in a two-volume DVD boxed set. With characters born in legends and old tales, the stories feature dwarves, trolls, witches, wizards, as well as humans. The setting for these stories is the Discworld, where the world really is flat, supported on the backs of four elephants, who stand on the back of a turtle floating through space.

The first and better adaptation is Soul Music, in which a teenager pledges his life to become the world’s most famous musician. With some hesitation, he forms a band with a dwarf and a rock-banging troll. When he buys a magical guitar, the band rockets to stardom all over the Disc. At the same time, a girl named Susan learns of her grandfather’s true nature (he is Death) when she pushed into assuming his job temporarily, and takes charge of the young musician’s life. In the meantime, Death himself (wonderfully voiced by Christopher Lee) wanders the world depressed, trying to “forget.”

The second tale is Wyrd Sisters, about three witches who are given the baby of a murdered king to protect. While also entertaining, the story isn’t as engaging. Pratchett’s talent for one-liners shows more clearly in the first, with musical references running the gamut from Buddy Holly and Elvis, to The Beatles and the Sex Pistols. The themes of life and death figure more prominently (literally!) in Soul Music, as opposed to the Shakespearean plot and cast of Wyrd Sisters.

The animation in these two tales has been roundly criticized for being below par. While it is definitely more crude than what people are used to seeing, it’s not as awful as some reviewers claim. Fans of Terry Pratchett will certainly enjoy seeing these adaptations, regardless of the animation and material that had to be left out. Those who aren’t familiar with Pratchett will find these less amusing, with many of the in-jokes going over their heads, and the recurring characters will be unknown. Soul Music is worth watching in either case, but Wyrd Sisters is best left for the strict Terry Pratchett fan. Special features include storyboards, an interview with Terry Pratchett from 1997 and author and character bios.

Katie Morris is a writer and a film critic in Chicago.



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