6 December 2001 | stvincal
A beautifully-done animated adventure set in ancient China.
This animated, 90-minute adventure is a unique, beautifully-rendered adaptation of the ancient Chinese ghost stories that have been handed down from generation to generation. The story starts out in modern-day California, where two children of Chinese heritage are left in the care of their Grandmother while their parents are away on a trip. But their Grandmother is no ordinary Grandmother. She is more like a wise witch doctor, full of stories, and able to conjure up spells and magic potions. Initially the children are afraid of her, but gradually she wins their trust. By mistake, the three of them are transported to ancient China, where they enter a world fraught with wizards, witches, ghosts and an assortment of other dangers. This is where the adventure begins, as they try to safely make their way back to the modern world. But they won't leave China without learning some important life lessons, as well as an appreciation for their culture. Set amongst ancient temples, villages and lakes, with a backdrop of wide plains and towering, mist-covered mountains, "The Magic Pearl" takes the viewer on an animated travelogue of China. The story is compelling and the voice characterizations - featuring an all-Asian cast which includes France Nguyen and George Takei as a talking frog named Ha Ping - are all superb. The only complaint is at times the animation seems a bit stiff and limited. But the beautiful watercolor backgrounds (which won background artist Barbara Schade an Emmy Award) are reason enough to rent this exciting adventure story. At times it may be a bit scary for younger viewers, but anyone over the age of 5 or 6 will be fascinated. It originally aired on ABC but is now available on video. If you enjoy animation, and especially if you want to watch a fantasy/adventure that is different from most animated shows, rent "The Magic Pearl".