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
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
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
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. …