The topics covered in the interviews include Schwartz’s life – the distant relationship he ended up having with his son Peter isn’t ignored, and he is very honest and open about the regrets he has about this – his research and love of folklore, the illustrations by Stephen Gammell, and the controversies surrounding parents trying to get the book banned from elementary schools for their content. Although the documentary is interesting in many different ways (the psychoanalysis of some of the stories and their possible effect on children are fascinating), the discussions around censorship were by far the most interesting part, with concerned parents arguing that the content of the stories are too gruesome for young children whereas others believe that it’s wrong to take away something that encourages children to enjoy reading and answers taboo questions they may have about death. Near the end of the film, one of the mothers who had campaigned to get the book banned from her child’s school has a conversation with Peter Schwartz regarding the issue, and it was nice to see a debate that isn’t a screaming match take place in a civilised way.
The only main flaws with the film are the editing which often feels a bit off and out of place, as well as the recreations of the stories being told which didn’t seem to fit with the tone. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to what everyone had to say about the stories, and the animation captures the gothic feel of Gammell’s illustrations which keeps you engaged. The film really captures the love that people had and continue to have for these books, which is why it’s a good tribute to the creator and a celebration of the power of stories as a whole.