Animation Meets Classic Tales in WJCT's `Book of Virtues'

By McAlister, Nancy | The Florida Times Union, February 3, 1997 | Go to article overview

Animation Meets Classic Tales in WJCT's `Book of Virtues'


McAlister, Nancy, The Florida Times Union


Author William Bennett returns to TV this month with lessons for

children about good character. He will also be in Jacksonville

on Feb. 11 for the sold-out Florida Forum series.

New episodes of Adventures from the Book of Virtues (7 a.m.

Sunday, WJCT TV-7) will again bring together animation and

classic stories to teach young viewers themes such as honesty

and respect. Like Bennett's best-selling anthology, they draw

those themes from such sources as classic American stories,

European fairy tales, African fables, Bible adventures and

Native American legends.

Lending their voices this time are Hollywood stars including

Mark Harmon, Kathy Bates, Brock Peters, Edward Asner and Joan

Van Ark.

Bennett, a former education secretary and the nation's drug

czar under President Reagan, wrote The Book of Virtues after

hearing teachers express the need for today's children to learn

values. In the introduction to his book, he wrote that a

majority of Americans share respect for such character traits as

loyalty. But these are virtues children are not born with.

His hope, he said in an interview, is that the TV adaptation

will explain words like faith and perseverance and children will

be encouraged in the right direction.

Among the tales to be featured this month are Queen Esther,

The Emperor's New Clothes, Old Mr. Rabbit's Thanksgiving Dinner,

Scarface, The Gift of the Magi and Ulysses and Cyclops. The

themes include friendship, respect, faith, humility and

generosity.

In each episode of Adventures from the Book of Virtues,

11-year-old Zach and 10-year-old Annie help introduce the focus

of the program. Helping them to interpret moral meaning are a

group of talking animals led by Plato, a wise buffalo.

Adapting these classic stories for TV is a way to reach kids

where they are, Bennett said.

"This is their medium, for a lot of them. And these are very

good stories. You know, I don't have any responsibility to these

stories. I didn't write them. The power of these stories, the

resilience of these stories, they last and last and they keep

working."

Bruce Johnson, creator and executive producer of Adventures,

has timed February's second installment with the release of a

home video series.

Although the target audience is youngsters 4 to 11, Johnson

said his hope is for entire families to watch the series.

Provocative themes that run through the tales could serve as a

catalyst for family discussions. "They could be a springboard to

talk about these kinds of qualities in a person's life," said

the co-founder of Porch-Light Entertainment, who previously was

an executive with Hanna-Barbera.

PBS has scheduled Adventures for the family-friendly time slot

of 6 p.m. Sundays. TV-7 is running it at 7 a.m. Sundays because

of limited space on the schedule and because the 7 to 8 a.m.

time period provides the greatest exposure to children,

according to a station spokeswoman.

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Animation Meets Classic Tales in WJCT's `Book of Virtues'
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