Rumpelstiltskin, part of the Eaton's Christmas Vignettes at the Manitoba Children's Museum (Children's Museum)
"For me, seeing the vignettes was slightly surreal - and I mean that in the good way. The three blind mice in their endless circle, the seven dwarves snoring away, Rumpelstiltskin stamping his foot in an eternal rage - these very simple, slightly strange tableaux brought back Christmases past with an almost painful immediacy."
The best family outings offer something for both parents and kids, and a display of the old Eaton's Fairytale Vignettes, now on view at the Children's Museum until January 8, definitely fits the bill - though the different generations will probably have entirely different experiences of this wonderfully odd little exhibit.
For the older crowd, this will be pure nostalgia, a potent, maybe slightly sad reminder of the heyday of the department store. These vignettes call up a time when going downtown at Christmas was a huge treat, and Eaton's offered intricate holiday windows along with displays located on the seventh floor Toyland and later the annex on the ninth floor.
When Eaton's closed (sigh...), the last original toy display was donated to the Children's Museum. Buffed up and restored, these fifteen scenes use moving papier-mache and fabric figures and painted backdrops to illustrate classic fairytales. They are accompanied by written versions of the stories, which are nicely compressed and a bit cleaned up. (Nobody dances to death in red-hot shoes or does any of those grim and Grimm things found in the original tales.)
For me, seeing the vignettes was slightly surreal - and I mean that in the good way. The three blind mice in their endless circle, the seven dwarves snoring away, Rumpelstiltskin stamping his foot in an eternal rage - these very simple, slightly strange tableaux brought back Christmases past with an almost painful immediacy.
For kids raised on seamless CGI special-effects, on the other hand, the vignettes, with their herky-jerky motorized movements and low-fi production values, will be quite a novelty. (I would guess that kids will be kind of fascinated, though most will get through the exhibit fairly quickly. You'll want to plan a whole outing to the fabulously revamped museum and include the vignettes as one part.)
Another holiday activity at the Children's Museum is a New Year's event for kids in which the celebration - including a festive balloon drop and a ginger ale toast -- takes place at noon rather than midnight. For anyone who's counted down to New Year's with a tired, cranky child who's bound and determined to make it to midnight, this will seem like an absolutely brilliant idea.
And throughout the school holiday, many of the city's organizations will be trying to cure cabin fever with planned activities and day camps for kids. The Assiniboine Park and Zoo is offering programming at its new Qualico Family Centre, while Fort Whyte is embracing the cold and snow with outdoor activities that include snowshoeing, sled racing, animal tracking and snow-fort building.
For free activities, head to the The Forks' Arctic Glacier Winter Park for skating and walking (though the so-far mild winter mean that the snowboarding and tobogganing areas are still under construction). And the Millennium Library has scheduled a Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 7 with games, stories and crafts.
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer (CBC)
Pictured above, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin and Sleeping Beauty (Manitoba Children's Museum)