With Purim only a few weeks away, a new full-length feature animation takes the Book of Esther, “Megillat Esther,” and gives it a “Back to the Future”-meets-Pixar twist.
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“Megillas Lester,” which will be out on iTunes, DVD and Blu-ray on March 3, tells the story of Doniel Lesterovitch or Lester, who gets knocked out while directing his school’s Purim play, and wakes up in the story that is traditionally read by Jews every year on the Purim holiday. “The Book of Esther” tells the story of the Jewish queen of the Persian empire thwarting the plan of Haman, one of the king’s top advisers, to kill all the empire’s Jews. Lester puts a spanner in the works and alters the course of the story - it is up to him to get everything back on track so Esther can save the Jews.
The Purim story ends with Haman and his ten sons being put to death, and the reveling Jews massacring thousands of Persians. Although the real story is violent, given that the film portrays a ‘dream’ version, and the perceptions of a young boy, says its creator Chananya Kramer “the story is only exciting and fun, never scary or violent. We were quite selective as to which parts of the story we portrayed.”
The 42-year-old wrote, produced and directed the movie, which is primarily aimed at the Orthodox Jewish community. He came up with the story some 15 years ago, when he first got into the multi-media and video business with his Baltimore-based company, Kolrom.
Last summer, after making a short teaser trailer featuring Haman “laughing maniacally” and uploading it to YouTube, he was approached by Jewish entertainment company EMES productions, who went on to executive produce the movie. They even built a motion capture animation studio for Kramer and his team. While he cannot reveal the film’s budget, he says that it was “far and away” more expensive than the typical Jewish production.
The story of Purim is a well-known one, says Kramer, and one that both Jews and non-Jews can relate to. Kolrom is hoping that subtitles in Hebrew, French, Russian and even Yiddish ensure that it can reach a wide audience.
The story was inspired by Stephen Spielberg’s “Back to the Future” series, the Hollywood classic “Wizard of Oz,” and, of course, Pixar, but Kramer didn’t set out to change the Purim story.
“Poor little Lester is trying to get everything back on track, but the moral of the Purim story is that Hashem is controlling the events. We are very sensitive about the fact that this is Lester’s story, but we are not messing with the Purim story itself.”