Northern Ballet: Elves & The Shoemaker ★★★☆☆ | Movie Review


The tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker told in ballet form.

(This isn't the same production as the one at the cinema.)


I went into this with some reservations after seeing the Tortoise and the Hare last month.

Unsurprisingly it didn't differ in format from the first. Our enthusiastic friend is sitting reading an oversized book of the story in front of a terribly animated background, that's followed by an introduction to two of the characters that will be most appealing to the younger viewers (with the ill-conceived audience participation), and it's all concluded with the ballet itself.

Thankfully this production was much better than the last, I think mainly because the tale is generally one that's told to slightly older children. I imagine that the next production, the Three Little Pigs, is going to be much like the first.

The sets were nicely done with one slight exception, there is a rather out of place stained glass window in the back of the set. The mish-mash of colours doesn't fit in well with the rest of the set and the characters actually interact through it as if they can see each other, which begs the question... why not put in a plain window? There's set behind it, we see it when the elves come through at night, so it would have made no difference apart from the fact we would have seen the characters rather than vague shadow "acting" through the panels.

The Shoemaker and his wife are a wonderful dancing couple. They're perfectly in sync and their scene at the very beginning where they dance with the poor woman is fantastically choreographed.

The other main duo of the ballet is made up of Tap and Stitch the elves. Sadly this pairing doesn't have as much chemistry. Admittedly at times they're supposed to be dancing separately but when they're performing the same routine they aren't working as one and it's noticeable.

Bizarrely, part way through the ballet we're treated to a random scene of the Shoemaker dancing in the forest. There's no real need for it as far as I can tell. Knowing the story didn't really help this scene make any sense at all and being that the production requires no filler while the scenes are changed it was rather out of place.

While I was much happier about this production than the first one I still can't help but feel bringing it to the screen like this is rather a waste of ballet. We don't get to see any of the stage changes again, and possibly more heinous was the inclusion of digital sparkle effects and extra transitions for a costume change.

What you should do

The Elves and the Shoemaker is definitely better and may well be worth trying as an introduction to ballet on the stage... but personally I'd probably still try to see a live performance.

Movie thing you wish you could take home

Does anyone know if the elves do other things apart from make shoes? Perhaps clean houses? Wait... I've strayed into Harry Potter territory.