When Reading CliffNotes Is Too Much Trouble

In Children's by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

It’s close to midnight, and your copy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is still sitting in your backpack, still unopened, and there’s a quiz the next morning on Acts 1-3. What to do? Since 1958, panicked students have turned to CliffsNotes for a quick reliable summary of the plot, characters, and main themes of hundreds of classics of world literature. But what if someone of today’s generation has neither the time nor the inclination to make their way through literally pages of summary?

Help has at long last arrived. AOL, Mark Burnett, Coalition Films and Josh Faure-Brac have joined forces to present to the world “CliffNotes Films – The Fastest Way to Learn.” These short, jokey animated films, each narrated by a super-hero dork named “Super Cliff” promise to guide the “reader” through classic works of literature.

These video versions of CliffsNotes, they argue, “by presenting works of fiction in a humorous, irreverent, animated shorts . . . still manage to present the plots, characters and themes to the viewer,” while describing the videos in a released statement as “edutainment.”

The shorts are also interactive, including in-video links to related content such as article and videos that offer “more information” on characters, setting and themes — as well as commentary from college professors. There are even “helpful cheats” that allow the viewer to “win” Shakespeare and Cliff badges!

Currently available for viewing are the “notes” for six plays by William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet. Each video runs 7-8 minutes and, perhaps not surprisingly, is sponsored by the very film that attempts to prove that Shakespeare was not the actual author of the plays that are being studied — Anonymous. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is “edutainment!”

View Hamlet here: http://www.cambio.com/2011/10/03/hamlet/

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.