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Bono’s Tender New Peter and The Wolf Will Make You Cry More Than Bluey

Bono and Gavin Friday have a unique vision for the symphonic fairy tale. And when it hits Max, families will be electrified.

Peter and the Wolf on HBO Max

Some pieces of art exist to simply be pieces of art, intrinsic and pretentious. Others are born to share a message or spread knowledge. This latest adaptation of Peter and The Wolf from Cartoon Network accomplishes all of these things, walking the tightrope of art, entertainment, and a signal of hope. Created by Bono and Gavin Friday, this new animated short started its life as a project between the two artists to benefit the Irish Hospice Foundation, and two decades later found its way into the world of animation. This 30-minute short transports the 1937 Russian tale by Sergei Prokofiev to modern-day Ireland, making something new and fresh that has the makings of being a classic for years to come. It hits Max on October 19, and Fatherly got an early look. Here’s what families need to know: This is a great adaption, but it's also shockingly brand new.

All the familiar beats from the original are there, but this is a wholly novel adaptation of this symphonic fairy tale. 12-year-old Peter is grieving the passing of his mom, possibly taken by cancer based on an image of her in a headscarf. Furious at the unfair world, Peter stomps around the backyard of his grandfather’s home with the sole purpose of making others hurt the same way he is feeling. Forbidden from entering the forest behind his home due to a stalking wolf, Peter and the local wildlife of his house, including a cat, bird, and duck (complete with snorkel) decide to take on the beast to end its reign of terror. This is where the story takes a turn away from its source material, sharing a message about the fragility of life, and coping with loss.

Bono and Gavin Friday in 2009.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

The stylish visuals are inspired by black-and-white paintings Bono made in 2003, but take on a more accessible look than the Irish singer's original abstract pieces. The characters are fluid, filled with the whimsy of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Monochromatic other than infrequent splashes of vibrant red, Peter and the Wolf is animated in a style like the Amazing Adventures of Gumball, where cartoon characters dwell within realistic 3-D backgrounds (in this case, they actually were physical sets photographed and drawn on top of). Peter and his grandfather are filled with life, and all of the animals are as adorable as ever, even if the duck’s quacks sound like a ringtone.

Gavin Friday growls his narration to the viewers, sometimes ominous but never frightening. His deep, expressive voice plays masterfully with the music he and Maurice Seezer arranged and performed by their ensemble. The familiar classical instruments are all there – Peter as the strings, the duck waddling to the rhythm of an oboe, and the skulking wolf as French horns. Traditional Irish folk music pervades the classic Russian composition, marrying the two sounds harmoniously together. Neither is more important than the other, marching side-by-side to set the stage and keep the story moving forward.

A twist in the end dramatically alters the tone and meaning of the original, exploring the motivations that were previously neglected. I wasn’t prepared for all the feels, but they were welcome once they arrived. You might just cry, perhaps, even harder than some of those really poignant Bluey episodes. To be clear, if you or your kids can handle Bluey’s emotional episodes, you will survive this just fine. But parents should be warned, this Peter and the Wolf should carry an emotional trigger warning, mostly in a good way. For anyone who has suffered a loss in their family, the uplifting message will ring strong and might offer a bit of therapy in an unexpected way.

Peter enters the woods to hunt for the wolf, but what secrets will he find when he visits this dark place?

Warner Bros. Discovery

While there is a spot with hunters towards the end of the toon to imply a resolution to the wolf, none of the scares are worse than any G-rated animated movie on the market today, and the true outcome is actually peaceful and aggression-free. Of course, there’s always the age-old question of what happens to the duck at the end, but I don’t want to spoil that other than saying everyone has a satisfying conclusion.

There have been animated takes on Peter and the Wolf before, famously the Disney version from 1946 that has become the flag-bearer for these adaptations. (Plus, we’ll never forget the Weird Al album version.) But, with this new version, Bono and Friday have crafted a dream into reality, perfect for the whole family to indulge in that’s just the right amount of fantastical and captivating. It’s not spooky and hardly scary, but it’s a great Autumnal choice to cozy up on the couch with your kids. There’s no better way to introduce them to the world of classical music and tell a story about resiliency and finding comfort in the unknown.

Peter and the Wolf arrives on Max on Thursday, October 19.