Fool & The Flying Ship [VHS] Narrated by Robin Williams, Art by Henrik Drescher, Music by The Klezmer Conservatory Band.
I have owned this video since it was first released. If you have never seen or heard a Rabbit Ears production, allow me to highly recommend them. Each animated half hour tale is matched with an appropriate actor/ narrator, artist, and soundtrack. These are suitable for ages 5 and up and are variously available as picture books, VHS tapes, DVDs and on Playaways. Links to some of my favorites follow.
In the Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, Robin Williams tells the story of a generous man, short on brains, but blessed with luck and good friends who help him succeed. Hearing that the Czar will give his daughter in marriage to the man who can build a flying ship, our hero sets off to make his fortune. He meets and shares his dinner with a magical little old man who provides him with the ship, then picks up several travelers with special talents, such as a man so fast that he must tie his leg to his head to keep him from running around the planet, a big eater who can polish off a thousand loaves of bread at one sitting, and a hairy weakling who puffs up with strength at sunset. With the Fool’s innocent confidence and his company’s extraordinary abilities he soon has a somewhat reluctant new father in law and bride.
William’s provides merry narration and sounds like he is having a ball. He gives the characters and the narrator unique voices. The music of The Klezmer Conservatory Band is an appropriately rollicking backdrop to the story. Henrik Drescher has also illustrated The Boy Who Ate Around, Pat the Beastie: A Pull-and-Poke Book and Hubert the Pudge: A Vegetarian Tale. His seemingly simple artistic style may be an acquired taste, but I have grown to like the way it fits with this story. The art is odd, but this really is a weird story, and some of the characters would become even more grotesque if drawn in a traditional realistic style. I like that his flying ship has little animal legs (Baba Yaga esque?)and I really enjoy the shaggy haired weakling turned bald strongman.
Other favorites by Rabbit Ears: Anansi told by Denzel Washington, Elephant's Child told by Jack Nicholson, Boy Who Drew Cats [VHS] told by William Hurt and Finn Mccoul: Ireland [VHS] told by Catherine O'Hara.
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale. Retold by Arthur Ransome. Illus. by Uri Shulevitz.
It is noted on the copyright page that “The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship” was published in 1916 by Arthur Ransome in Old Peter’s Russian Tales. The story is basically the same as above, with a few additional crew members. It stresses that “God loves simple folk, and turns things to their advantage in the end.” The Fool’s story certainly has a happy ending. Although he’s forced to produce soldiers to frighten the Czar and bring about his wedding to the princess, he ends up with a wife who loves him and becomes so clever that all listen to what he says.
My favorite pictures are of the ship with its sails billowing, sailing over the patchwork of land below and the singing party arriving at the czar’s elegant palace.