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Western Animation / HBO Storybook Musicals

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HBO Storybook Musicals is a series of children's books Animated Adaptations featuring songs throughout. As the name implies, the series began on the channel HBO, though reruns later appeared on the spinoff children's channel HBO Family.

The series began in 1987 and ran until 1993. The first four episodes were advertised as standalone specials, with the HBO Storybook Musicals branding starting with the fifth episode.

HBO Storybook Musicals adapts:

  • The House On East 88th Street
  • The Story Of The Dancing Frog
  • The Red Shoes
  • Earthday Birthday
  • Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel,
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,
  • The Marzipan Pig
  • The Little Match Girl
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Ira Sleeps Over
  • And A Child's Garden Of Verses.

There were also seven specials branded as HBO Storybook Musical episodes that weren't really HBO Storybook Musical episodes. As a result, they aren't aired in reruns alongside the rest of the series.


HBO Storybook Musicals provides examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: In the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day adaptation, Phillip Parker does not wear glasses.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Peter's mother has her opening song about telling her children where to go fetch some blackberries. However she briefly takes a break from singing and explains why they shouldn't go to Mr. McGregor's garden and what happened to their father. She then sings in a somber and sad tone of the fate to her former husband. Most adaptations would rub off about there father being baked into a pie but the musical makes this a bit more serious.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Alexander's dad has brown hair instead of blond. He's also missing his mustache.
    • Alexander's brother Nick has blond hair instead of brown. His other brother Anthony has brown hair instead of blond.
  • Advertisement:
  • Adaptation Expansion: To pad out the episodes, more scenes are added. Most of the original books are short children's stories after all.
  • Ascended Extra: Peter's sisters Mopsy, Flopsy, and Cottontail have more presence complete with scenes showing them picking berries. The trio have a total of 3 songs all sang by each other while Peter only has one song besides singing short verses.
  • Big Brother Bully: One of Alexander's brothers makes fun of him for crying when he falls in a mud puddle. Alexander and his brothers even have an entire song about how they wish they didn't have brothers to take attention away from them or annoy them, though it ends with them realizing having siblings isn't so bad after all.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Alexander's brother Nick wears glasses, unlike in the book.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: In The Red Shoes, Jim's funeral is shown to be rainy, which adds more to the sad mood.
  • Ill Boy: Lisa's brother, Jim, in The Red Shoes. We don't know what he's got but he does pass away from it. Seeing him again in her memories is what snaps Lisa out of being a Spoiled Brat
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • The Little Match Girl gives the protagonist the Meaningful Name of "Angela".
    • In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day the originally unnamed cat is called "Timothy".
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The Little Match Girl takes place in 1999 but came out in 1990.
  • Race Lift: In the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day adaptation Phillip Parker changed from black to white, while Albert Moyo changed from white to black.
  • Re-Cut: The Scholastic release of "Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel" removed all of the songs from the special.
  • Rich Bitch: When her family in The Red Shoes wins the lottery, Lisa becomes a spoiled brat, even stealing the titular red shoes from Alphonse's shop because she wants them.
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • The song "No One Wants Us Anymore" from "Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel" is first sung when Mike Mulligan is singing sadly about how nobody in town wants to use a steam shovel anymore after the newer shovels came along. At the very end of the episode, Mike Mulligan sings "Someone wants us, someone needs us" which is a positive version of that song after he and Mary Ann decide to stay in the town hall as a janitor after the town loved the work he and Mary Ann did to dig a hole.
    • "So Near And Yet So Far" from "Peter Rabbit" starts out as a lament song sung by Peter after he starts missing home, since he can't find a way out of Mr. McGregor's garden. After Peter finally escapes his garden and returns home, He is in bed with his mother giving him tea and medicine. After he gives an explanation for how he lost his shirt and shoes, Mrs. Rabbit tells Peter to not do it again and mentions that home is not far away. She sings a more uplifting version of the song but changes the lyrics and the song to "So Far And Yet So Near".
  • Setting Update:
    • The original Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day came out in 1972. The fashion in the adaptation makes it clear that the special takes place in contemporary times (1990 to be exact).
    • The Little Match Girl takes place on New Year 1999.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Angela doesn't die at the end of The Little Match Girl.
  • Stock "Yuck!": Alexander hates lima beans. This is from the book, but it's only given a passing mention in the adaptation.
  • Suddenly Speaking: In most adaptations of Peter Rabbit, Mr. McGregor's white cat is never heard talking. In the Storybook Musicals adaptation, she is given her own musical number provided by Carol Burnett who also voices Peter's mother in the same special.
    • During the final musical number from "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" The Farmer's horse joins in briefly for the first chorus. At no other point does he or any other animal speak.
  • Villain Song: "No Steam Shovels Wanted" from "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel", about how superior the new shovels are to Mary Anne and other, older steam shovels.


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