A dark and grimm tale by Newbery Honor Award winner Adam Gidwitz is a series of children’s books that reinvent the classic world of fairy tales with a subversively funny twist. Gidwitz’s vision is now coming to life on Netflix. The TV adaptation lends a skillful blend of dark comedy and stylized animation to the beloved series. A dark and grimm tale focuses on Gretel and Hansel as they fight their way through a mystical realm and face off against several particularly dark versions of classic fairy tales and folklore.
Ahead of the show’s Netflix debut on October 8, CBR sat down for an exclusive interview with executive producer / director Simon Otto and series stars Raimi Rodriguez and Andre Robinson. The team discussed the most surprising aspects of the adaptation A dark and grimm tale and shared how they reinvented classic fairy tale characters for a new generation.
CBR: Even outside of the series being based on a specific series of books, these characters are largely timeless. How does it feel to put your own stamp on these classic stories?
Simon Otto: I think what really fascinated us all was the shot of Adam Gidwitz. We had the privilege of speaking to him and hearing his story of how it all happened. kids? ”He said,“ Oh, there’s that big big old big book called Grimm’s fairy tales. It’s probably a good idea to read it to children. ”As he read it, he began to interrupt his reading and undermine it.
In doing so, he discovered that the essence of the stories is truly valuable and the characters are exciting. In its un-sanitized version, kids are really drawn to it, especially when you then humorously undermine it and kind of ask the question like, “Well, that was weird. Their heads have just been cut off! Like, “Isn’t that great?” It must make sense because these stories go back 200 years. Before that, there were folk tales that were passed down verbally from generation to generation. The Grimm brothers took it upon themselves and made some really strong narrative stories out of them.
What Adam ultimately chose to do was, “Why not take a holistic romantic approach and take Hansel and Gretel on a journey where they experience a multitude of these fairy tales?” Basically we’re replacing the heroes in these stories with the same characters rather than going into individual stories. For me, coming from animating feature films, we’ve often tried to adapt fairy tales, and some of them, especially Disney, have done really well. But some of these stories are so absurd and weird that somehow you almost can’t make a feature film out of them. And this new opportunity that we have with a show like this actually allows you to tell some pretty weird stories because now you have the time to put it in one episode or roll it out over multiple episodes. So that was the fascinating part for me.
Raïmi Rodriguez: Yes. It’s really, really cool to be able to take a story that’s very well known and take out some of the other characters and just hit Hansel and Gretel right in the middle. All these adventures that they have to go through – there is so much going on. Between this brother and sister duo, they kind of try to find each other, run away from home but find out what home means to them and what it all entails and go through all these different adventures with other characters and arrive. to have all these different kinds of fun. I can’t wait for the kids to see it. It’s funny, because it’s like the classic fairy tales you know and love, but a little darker, in a little more original way, than some of them would say.
André Robinson: This show is fun. It’s for kids, but it has that little dark side that goes beyond you. That’s why I think it’s for everyone because I think families will benefit from it. The jokes are hilarious. The fears are incredible. Like every episode I’ve ever done, I had so much fun doing it. It’s really good.
This series openly embraces that slightly darker side of those original stories. What do you think attracts young audiences to more frightening content?
Otto: What I think is interesting … I think it’s kind of where they think they’re not supposed to see it, not supposed to hear about it, but in a way, they’re interested. They would like to know because children themselves have complicated emotions. Everything is not sanitized. Their life is not sanitized. There are things that are complicated for them and I think being attracted to things that they maybe feel is not entirely appropriate for them, although in our case I think we do. very well. There’s that line of what’s appropriate, what’s not, and our goal has always been: we want to scare kids, but we don’t want to scare them.
So our raven narrators allow us to always just at the right time, they hold hands. They bring humor. They give her a little ‘this is just a story’ feeling. When in fact we also play with this idea, is it a story? Is it real? Are they reliable narrators? Because sometimes they correct each other’s story … So you feel like you’re basically allowed to follow along as long as you feel comfortable and then sort of throw it down if you don’t. But I promise you, we never cross the line.
Andre and Raimi, you both weren’t able to record with each other in the same room, but the characters have such a fun connection that clearly ties into your performances. What was it like having the other to bounce off of?
Rodriguez: Andre and I hit it off right away. I think we need to meet through Zoom. And then what would happen is that we would follow each other on Instagram. Andred was like, “I’m sending you a message right now.” Not only do we record, but we also communicate with each other throughout our recordings. And, between the recordings, we were talking.
Robinson: Besides the script, we like to put little dots or little key points that a sibling would say, so I would add stuff in and it felt real. And I think Simon was like, “Are we recording this?”
Otto: The little breaths, the little laughs, the stuff that feels really natural. It’s an animator’s dream because you are creating something beyond the line. We were always looking and looking for these things. In the editorial, we put it together in a way that feels really natural. Not only does that add to their performances, but because there is a natural kind of – even though they’re twins in the story – dynamic of an older sister, a younger brother… It’s an interesting dynamic. I think it permeated the episodes and it helps us create the character art.
What do you think were the most surprising elements of the series for you?
Rodriguez: I have to sing. I must cry. I have to make primitive animal cries in the void. Gretel really goes through this all. Along with the comedy and the family relationship, Gretel herself grows so much throughout the series. When we come in, they’re young, they’re young, they’re innocent at first. And then their voices adapt and change as they go along because they themselves adapt and change as they grow older – so their voice might get harsher. They could get tougher. They might not be as receptive to feeling so quickly because they don’t know if you are being honest or if you are not, or they don’t know who to trust. It was a beautiful trip. Not only as Gretel, but as an actress, Raini was able to do it, bringing this character to life.
Robinson: I actually loved it because for Hansel, as a kid going through it all … First of all, his head is cut off. So like, “What is this?” So now he thinks his parents are betraying him, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to leave his safe place. But so he needs his sister to tell him, “Okay, you realize you just cut your head off, right? We have to bathe. We have to get out of here.” As this story, as they leave and try to find a new home, Hansel gets a little harder, realizing that, “Hey, your sister has been protecting you for so long. Now it’s time for you to get up and go. to protect yourself from someone you love. ” And so, as he goes through these emotions, he gets into a lot of trouble.
Otto: It was absolutely exciting to dive into this world, to know from the start what we wanted, and we really wanted to bring out the essence of Adam Gidwitz and his novel. Basically, by default, we had to find ways to produce a roadshow, which in animation is difficult because generally what we do in episodic television we come back to the same setting. Our story is a giant journey and road trip around this world. So what we had to find was that we had to find a way to do it. And then on top of that, we wanted to lean into this unreliable narrator story. And the best way to do it is we have different degrees of realities
When we’re really in the story, it’s fully fleshed out and it’s a three-dimensional world, and the flat parts of what we’ve painted are pushed into the background. When the raven tells – let’s say a story and it’s not quite right or when they really pull out a story and say – “Well, that’s way too scary.” So we’ll show it to you, but with taste. We can immerse ourselves in it but we interpret it as a play. It’s almost like a few people are pulling strings and the backgrounds are being pulled and it sets the tone for what the show will do visually, which is to come in and out of these different worlds and allows us to tell a vast story.
A Tale Dark & Grimm, starring Raini Rodriguez, Andre Robinson, Scott Adsit, Ron funches and Erica Rhodes, arrives on Netflix on October 8
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