30 March 2014 | TheLittleSongbird
The most underrated Heidi adaptation and a surprisingly good one
Not the most faithful version of the classic book, that would be the Emma Bolger one or the best one, again between the Emma Bolger and Shirley Temple versions(the Jetlag animation is a high point in their output also). Heidi's Song is not to be dismissed though because in so many ways it is very memorable and is the most underrated version. I've seen six, all have shortcomings but none of them are bad, and that is true of Heidi's Song(and no bias is intended despite it being a childhood favourite). Heidi could have been more fluidly drawn in places and moments once Heidi escapes Frankfurt are on the rushed side, but when it comes to shortcomings that's pretty much it from me. The animation is atmospheric and lush, the backgrounds are smooth and the colours rich rather than flat, while the imaginative animation for the Nightmare and Ode to a Rat sequences are unforgettable. Very distinctive Hanna-Barbera. The soundtrack is a very large part of Heidi's Song's appeal, Ode to a Rat is the catchiest number though Clara's song is a melancholic beauty and She's a Nothing has some really clever lyrics. A Christmas-sy Day really advances the story and tells the story through the song, and while most of the others don't quite achieve that neither of them really distract from the story or feel out of place(yes even Ode to a Rat). The orchestrations are beautifully done and very cleverly scored. The Nightmare Sequence is musically very creepy that compliments the somewhat trippy visuals very well and the brass orchestration in Ode to a Rat is a standout too.
The script didn't seem that sugary and has its fair share of funny and touching moments. Depending on tastes, some may find some parts scary and the slapsticky additional animals might not work for some too. It was never a problem for me, the humour/slapstick was funny and didn't come across as misplaced and the Nightmare sequence was a sequence that always was transfixing and it is still memorable now. The story doesn't follow the book closely details wise but the emotional heart and heart-warming spirit is more than evident. If there were any over-sentimental or sickly sweet parts that I've seen Heidi's Song being criticised for that never was the case with me. The characters are very well-balanced, the grandfather's change of heart is believable and doesn't reveal itself too early and and Fraulein Rottenmeier is appropriately despicable. Heidi's Song doesn't make its characters too sympathetic like the 1968 version with Jean Simmons did, neither does it make them too hostile like Noley Thornton's. The animals are very cute and don't detract from the story at all. The voice work is terrific from all, Marjery Gray is instantly appealing and spirited as Heidi, Joan Gerber is sinister and amusing without resorting to pantomime and Clara and Peter are believably voiced too. But there were two standouts. One was Lorne Greene, who whether speaking or singing brings a booming yet emotional quality to the grandfather that makes you warm to him quickly despite his initial reclusive nature. And the other was Sammy Davis Jnr, he doesn't come until late into the film but is very witty and shows some wonderful vocals that you'd recognise with no problem. To conclude, a childhood favourite that holds up, not a first choice out of all the numerous versions of the story but has enough to make it not one to forget. 8/10 Bethany Cox