Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Little Match Girl: Thoughts and Facts (part 1)

Once upon a time

I was daunted by the idea of choosing ‘The Little Match Girl’ as my second fairy tale. It didn’t matter what cute, funny and colourful things I drew for ‘Snow White and Rose Red’, but ‘The Little Match Girl’ has a special kind of magic. I had to figure out how to keep my art light-hearted without overlooking the soul of Hans Christian Andersen’s masterpiece.

I actually have no idea how I came to know the unforgettable tale, but this is a great opportunity to learn about its making. People all over the world have taken the story to their hearts, so there’s a lot to be said!

This first instalment of Thoughts and Facts will put the spotlight on Disney’s The Little Match Girl (2006).

Disney’s adaptation

‘The Little Match Girl’ has inspired countless works, but the one that comes to my mind is Disney’s short traditionally-animated film. It may shock you to hear that I was a little disappointed with the visual effects. I expected to be spellbound by the little girl’s visions as she gazed into the flame of the match, but although these scenes were beautifully painted, they just didn’t deliver the fairy dust I’m used to seeing from Walt Disney Studios.

You can, nonetheless, feel the love that went into making the piece, because if there’s one thing Disney can’t do wrong, it’s the art of storytelling. The animation for the little girl is engaging and authentic. The transitions from cold reality to warm dream are faultless. There’s expert use of colour and the choice of music couldn’t be better. Given how iconic ‘The Little Match Girl’ is, however, I wish they took the visual effects to premier level (think Disney Fantasia 2000: ‘Firebird Suite’). Extra investment would have sent the little girl’s dreams soaring, but to be fair, you do get the sense that the makers made every cent they had count.

Though I expected more, the adaptation is still a thoughtful one. It stayed with me and I was eager to watch it again the moment I decided to look at ‘The Little Match Girl’ fairy tale. I was thrilled to find such a gem on Disney’s The Little Mermaid DVD. It’s also part of a collection of short animated Disney films (alongside Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After) that was released on DVD earlier this year.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Disney chose not to produce an accurate retelling of Andersen’s story. There isn’t a scene where the little girl loses her shoes and nothing suggests that she has a house or parents to go back to. What came as a pleasant surprise was the ending. Disney has a reputation for making everything end happily ever after, but in the case of ‘The Little Match Girl’, the makers wisely left the course of Andersen’s story unchanged. The closing scene is powerful and poignant, leaving no doubt that the heart of the short film is exactly the same as the heart of Andersen’s original narrative.

As a piece of animation, there’s nothing spectacular or ground-breaking to be seen, so unless you happen to want Disney’s The Little Mermaid or collection of short films on DVD, I wouldn’t recommend seeking to buy it. If you know someone who owns either DVD and you’re passionate about fairy tales, then I’d highly recommend borrowing it to see ‘The Little Match Girl’ as interpreted by Disney.

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