Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

Happily Ever After" is often fun, thought-provoking and clever, but at 90 minutes, this introductory trilogy to the limited series is a little too much of a good thing. Even in its subsequent 30-minute encores, the stories (and audience interest) will be stretched.

Happily Ever After” is often fun, thought-provoking and clever, but at 90 minutes, this introductory trilogy to the limited series is a little too much of a good thing. Even in its subsequent 30-minute encores, the stories (and audience interest) will be stretched.

The concept has promise: taking common Western fairy tales and populating them with characters of diverse ethnic backgrounds. In these three stories, the approach pays off with such pluses as the lively rumba music of an Hispanic re-telling of “Hansel & Gretel” and some interesting insights into Chinese culture in a version of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

For the most part, though, “Happily Ever After” is likely to leave viewers wondering how much more it could have accomplished by unearthing tales originally and genuinely of diverse ethnicity. A true story of African origin might have done more for the self-esteem and imagination of HBO kid viewers than seeing an African-American giant bellowing, “Fe-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an African!”More TV reviews, page 24

As is, there’s the hint of calculated political correctness and some of the ethnic content comes across as contrived and preachy.

Still, there’s lots to recommend “Happily,” particularly its all-star lineup of voices, adroitly cast by Eileen Mack Knight and Meredith Behrend. Especially worthy of note are Tone Loc as the “Jack and the Beanstalk” giant and Rosie Perez as the wicked witch of “Hansel and Gretel.”

The character and background designs are generally strong and the animation is OK. Scripts do a good job of telling the original stories in thorough detail, but they often lack urgency, in part because they have too much time on their hands, with 30 minutes allotted to each story.

Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

(Sun. (26), 7:30-9 p.m., HBO)

Production: Filmed by Two Oceans Entertainment Group, Confetti Entertainment Co. and Hyperion Studio Entertainment. Overseas animation by Wang Film Prods. Co. Ltd. Exec producers, Donna Brown-Guillaume, Meryl Marshall, Willard Carroll, Thomas L. Wilhite, Carole Rosen; producer, Lynne Southerland; director, Bruce W. Smith; overseas direction, Kevin McDonagh; writers, Gordon Lewis, Michael Din, John PiRoman; character designs, Bruce Smith, Steven Aguilar, David M. Fassett, David Smith.

Crew: Editors, John Price, Southerland, Richard Allen; art directors, Gay Lawrence-Ventura, Valerio Ventura; music, Stephen James Taylor, Ray Nathanson, Ray Dobbins, Bill Ware, Gordon Lewis, Diane Louie, Charlie Midnight, Tito Larriva. Voices: Robert Guillaume, Pauletta Washington, Wayne Collins, Harry Belafonte, Jackee Harry, Tone Loc, Vu Mai, James Hong, Amy Hill, Pearl Huang, B.D. Wong, Brian Tochi, Chrissy Padilla, Christopher Montoya, Liz Torres, Cheech Marin, Rosie Perez, Tito Larriva.

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