Friday, July 6, 2012

Moby-Dick read-along

Found at Goodwill recently: a VHS tape called "Moby Dick Read-Along with our Still Animation Video Classics."

On the back of the sleeve: "It's our mission to help create a reading environment in every home. We must spark the thirst for the pure joy of reading. More specifically, reading alone with the videos in our series will help viewers to develop confidence, self satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment."

Other titles, 72 titles in all, include: Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Christmas Carol, and A Midsummer's Night [sic] Dream. (I think not spelling the Shakespeare title correctly says a lot...)

It says specifically about Moby-Dick: "One of the greatest sea novels ever written...a true classic of world literature."

Amazingly, there are no credits attached to this at all, either at the end or the beginning. No pomp and circumstance, it just goes straight into the read-along. I wonder if this is even copyrighted then as I can find no information at all. I wish I knew how to upload a VHS tape to the internet.

The overall narration is not read-along, but there isn't much of that, mostly just that famous opening. Guess they couldn't do without that. The dialogue pops up on screen in word balloons with still animation as a pretty good voice reads through it all with a lot of gusto. Makes it look like a comic book. It is actually pretty nice. The plot and mystery seem tighter without all the fluff of the actual novel. Lots of the elements are there: Queequeg, Father Mapple is short but good, Starbuck. 

We even tend to know more about Ahab I think. He comes in quickly to the story and somehow I feel I know more about him. The Rachel's captain says Ahab has a boy at home. Ahab himself mysteriously says, "My wife's been alone" for forty years. If anything, I feel closer to Ahab with these tantalizingly small clues based on a shorter piece.

The whole thing lasts only 29 minutes. 

Even if I wanted the other titles, I would have no idea where to get them. There's no contact information or date of any kind on the sleeve. Even the VHS tape itself has a simple white sticker with the words "Moby Dick" in block lettering only--literally nothing else. I can't tell if this was some kind of teacher's aid thing or a commercial product. 

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