FREE RESOURCES: Classroom Activities [ Page 1 ]
Student discussions, exercises, games before and after the play
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This page (Page #1) has creative activities for use in the classroom.  Kids love to learn more about the play’s origin and subject.  Check out these articles and activities related to ArtReach’s popular titles: Winnie-the-Pooh, A Christmas Peter Pan, Harriet Tubman, Jungle Book, Little Mermaid, Snow White, Reluctant Dragon, Treasure Island, A Thousand Cranes, Nutcracker Prince, MulanDon’t forget, a Teachers Guide will come with your School Play Package and contains tons of creative new ideas for your teaching lessons!

Classroom Exercises & Activities for ArtReach's New Play: 'Winnie-the-Pooh'
Ideas for Fun and Learning

Read the book! Winnie-the-Pooh is the first book in the Pooh collection and the first one readers fell in love with. You may ask parents to help prepare their children for the performance by reading the stories to them each night at bedtime. However, you can kick it up a notch and ask the kids themselves to read the stories to others. Kids may take turns reading in class but they may enjoy taking it outside the classroom. Who might like to hear the kids read? Folks in nursing homes and hospitals, fur-babies in animal rescue shelters and people who are unable to leave their homes. It's also a fun activity for groups sitting under a tree on a fine day.

Eeyore's Tail: What's more fun than an old-fashioned game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey? Have the kids play the game and then talk about the character of Eeyore. How do you think he lost his tail? What does a donkey use his tail for? How does Eeyore feel when his tail is gone and how does he feel when he gets it back? Why do you think Eeyore is so gloomy? Do you ever feel sad? What things can you do to cheer yourself up? What can you do if you know that someone else is sad?

Show and Tail: Have the kids bring in their own favorite stuffed animal. Have them show it off and explain what kind of animal it is. Why do they love this one more than any others? Does the animal ever talk and what does he say? What do you think the animal does all day when you are at school?

Buzzy Hunny Bees: There's so much to learn about honey bees! Have a bee-session and talk about the importance of honey bees in our world. If possible, go outside and look at flowers and fruit trees to see bees at work in their environment. Have kids bring some honey and try some honey treats like cookies and candies. Why not plant bee-loving flowers like bee-balm and butterfly plants? Watch them throughout the school year, note their progress and keep a record of bee sitings. Talk about why we must respect these creatures and what they do for us.

Piglet, Pooh and Rabbit              North Pole, Pooh, Christopher Robin and friends

Favorite Characters: Ask each child to consider who is their favorite character in Pooh stories (you might ask them to exclude Pooh so that you get a variety of answers). Have them consider where they live and what they eat (i.e. Rabbit hole and carrots). Would you like to live in that place? What does your character do for fun? What games would you like to play with your character? Write a letter and explain to your character how you live and what you eat. What things will you do together when your character visits you at home?

Map of Your Neighborhood: Mr. Milne and Mr. Shepard drew a very detailed map of the "100 Aker Wood". Show the map to the class and ask them to draw a map of their own neighborhood. Who lives nearby and who are your friends? What places are your favorite and what are your least favorite? Where do you go to play? What kind of things do you do when you play? Do you imagine that you are in a fort? Or a castle? Or other imagined places? Draw them on your map with the real places.

Pooh: coming soon.

Do Bears Like Hunny? Bears really do like to eat the honey that bees make but they usually eat the whole hive. However, bears often like to eat food that humans leave behind in the woods or in the garbage. Talk about why it is important for people to try to live peacefully beside wild animals. What things can you do to prevent bears from coming into dangerous contact with humans? And by the way, what things do you like to eat? Would you climb a tall tree to get them? If you get a whole lot of what you like to eat, do you slurp it up like Pooh? What does your mom think about that?

Consider this Quote by Eeyore: “A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.” Talk about what that means and how you can be considerate and thoughtful each day. If you are on the school bus or in the cafeteria, what things can you do to be kind and thoughtful to your fellow students?

Piglet and Pooh

“A little consideration, a little thought for others,
makes all the difference.”

Let's Talk About ArtReach's A Christmas Peter Pan
What Does This Christmas Story Mean to You?

SNOW FAIRIES: Ask the class to pretend that they are snow fairies. What is your name and what do you look like? Where do you live and why? Do you have a magic wand, or could your special powers be in your shoe or your hat? What are your magical powers? If the sun was shining brightly on you, what would you do? Show how you would do it.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS: Which are your favorite Christmas Carols and why? Have everyone sing a Christmas Carol. Now pretend you are a pirate singing the song. What words would you change to make it sound more like a pirate?

CAPTAIN HOOK TREASURE MAP: Choose Christmas tree ornaments to be treasures. Hide them on the around the school or on the playground and let the children find them like an Easter egg hunt. Have them draw a map from their desk to the place where they found the treasure. Look at places on a map or a globe where pirates once sailed such as the Caribbean and Spain. Find your home on the map and trace the way to the nearest port and then to the place of the pirates' origin.

Discuss Snow Fairies: "What are your magical powers?"
Christmas Musical Play Kids Perform A Christmas Peter Pan Play script for Christmas Peter Pan
St. Matthews National School, Dublin, Ireland - ArtReach's A Christmas Peter Pan

SANTA ELVES: If you were an elf what would your name be and what kind of toy would you make? What kind of materials would you use? Paper, wood, plastic, glue? What tools would you use? Are these in your garage at home or would you need to invent special magical tool? How long do you think it would take you to make such a toy? Who would you give your toy to? Draw picture of the toy you would like to give your best friend or family member.

CROCODILE: Have everyone draw a picture of a crocodile. How wide is your crocodiles mouth, how big are his teeth? What does he like to eat the best? Discuss the difference between crocodiles and alligators. Look up where they live and find them on a map. Do you think a crocodile would rather live in a zoo or in the sea?

PIRATE'S SHIP: Draw a picture of a pirate ships and identify the various parts of the ship: main deck, rigging, mast, sails, port, starboard, bow, stern. Pretend that you are a pirate and you are being attacked by another ship. What kind of treasure do you have on board and what will you do to protect it? Pretend the Captain is a villain like Captain Hook and stage a mutiny.

"Pretend Christmas tree ornaments are treasures and hide them."
Christmas Musical for Large Cast of Kids
St. Matthews National School, Dublin, Ireland - ArtReach's A Christmas Peter Pan

CRAYONS: Have each child choose a color from a box of crayons. Ask what kind of personality does your color have? Where does your color live (such as green for forest, pink for flowers, blue for sky)? Think of the way we use colors in our lives and what they mean to us. Are all the colors in the box friends? Talk about the colors in a rainbow and how rainbows create all colors. What does a rainbow mean to you?

CHRISTMAS SLEIGH: In the play Peter Pan discovers Santa's sleigh. Remember Cinderella's sleigh made from a pumpkin and five white mice? If you could make your sleigh out of anything what would it be made out of? What kind of animals would pull it? Would it fly in the air or sail on the sea? Who would ride in it and where would they go? Draw a picture of your special sleigh.

Discussion Ideas for Harriet Tubman: Take My Hand and Follow Me
Themes for Classroom Lessons, Teachers

Caring for Others:  Why do you think Harriet put herself in danger to help others? Do you care that much about other people? Is it better to help others or to take care of yourself instead? If you knew someone was very unhappy, would you go to great lengths to help them have a better life?

Heroes:  To many people Harriet is a great hero. Do you think so and why? Talk about heroes in movies and talk about why they are considered heroes? Do you have heroes? Who are they and why do you look up to them? What is the difference between movie heroes and heroes in real life?

"Who are your heroes and why?"
Harriet Tubman large cast school musical play for kids to perform. Classroom Activities Harriet Tubman

Commitment:  Why did Harriet take the extreme stand of refusing to let her runaways return home when the trip became too hard for them?

Reading and Writing:  Most people enslaved during Harriet's life were forbidden to read or write. Can you imagine why? How would your life be different if you were not allowed to read and write?

Spirituals:  Why do you think the songs were sung by the performers and the audience? What do you think the spirituals meant to the enslaved people who created them? What do you think these lyrics meant to them? Also, discuss what they meant in terms of the Underground Railroad.

"I'm bound for the promised land." 

"A band of angels coming after me, Coming for to carry me home." 

"I go ahead to make a place for you."
Harriet Tubman Classroom Lesson Ideas Study Guide for Harriet Tubman Take My Hand and Follow Me

Harriet's Own Words: Discuss these quotes:  "Live free or die."  "Keep going."  "I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."  "I go ahead to make a place for you."

Creative Dramatics for The Jungle Book
From classroom to jungle with The Jungle Book

Create Your Own Jungle:  Push back the desks and draw a magic circle on the floor.  You may do this by putting objects from the classroom in a circle on the floor.  Leave room for action inside the circle.

Now discuss thing that you might find in the jungle:  tigers, wolves, bugs, birds, rocks, logs, flowers, snakes etc.  Have each student choose a "jungle thing” in their minds.  Have them keep it a secret!  Now have two or three students step inside the circle and become their "jungle thing”.  Others may enter the circle one by one to encounter these objects.  Have them guess what things they have met.  Now switch roles:  The "jungle things” now are just people and the people are the "jungle things”.  How do they react to one another?  If one encounters a flower he might sniff it; another might encounter a snake and jump over it.   You can also do this activity without the guessing game.  Have students enter the "jungle” and simply enjoy it.

"Now This is the Law of the Jungle..."
Baloo helps Mowgli in The Jungle Book
"...As Old and As True As the Sky!" --  Rudyard Kipling

Raised by Wolves:  What do you think it was like for Mowgli to have brother and sister who are wolves?  What if you were raised as an animal in the wild?  Consider if your family was made up of porcupines, lions, elephants or squirrels.  What would you wear?  What would you eat?  What sound would you make when you are hungry or frightened?  Have children perform the animal they might have been raised by and have the others guess what it is.  Tell the class what your childhood was like living in the jungle.

Is Your School Performing The Little Mermaid?
Have an Underwater Sea Party!


The wording of your under the sea birthday party invitations can say "Calling all Jellyfish, Sharks, Squid and Seals, too...There's going to be an adventure, and we'd love to share it with you! You're O-Fish-ally invited to come under the sea. It's (your child's name) Under the Sea Birthday Party!". Then include day, time, address.

Here is a slightly different idea for your under the sea party invitations. Make your under the sea birthday party invitations as "messages-in-bottles." Simply fill clear plastic bottles with sand, mini sea shells, glitter, etc. Write your invitations on parchment paper, then roll them into scrolls, and insert invitations into bottles.


Decorate your under the sea birthday party room with green and blue balloons. Hang green "seaweed" streamers from the ceiling, chairs, or from the top of a windowsill. Cut out starfish, seahorses, and other sea animals from construction paper. Tape cutouts to some of the streamers.

Cover the lights in the room with blue cellophane paper, which will give the party "under water" feeling. Spread out any stuffed sea animals that you might have around the room. Have Mylar fish and dolphin balloons free-floating in the area, and have lots of blue latex balloons on the floor to create "ocean atmosphere." Hang a fish net in the corner of the under the sea birthday party room.

Put a blue or turquoise tablecloth on your under the sea party table, and then spread multi-colored confetti around it. Put plastic fish in a clear bowl for table centerpiece. Hang a personalized theme "Happy Birthday!" banner in the area.

Guest Arrival and Introductory Activities

Seascape Gel Bags: Here are some directions for your under the sea birthday party guests to follow for this activity.

Cut small fish from foam paper. Fill a Ziploc bag with blue hair gel so when the bag is closed it's about 1/4" thick. Place the fish shapes, colored beads, and some glitter in the bag. Squeeze out excess air from the bag before sealing it.

Place the bag, sealed end first, inside another bag. Seal the second bag and cover the zipped end with clear tape. Have children make the fish move by running their hands over the surface of the bag.

Sea Life Mural: Tape a wide sheet of butcher paper on the wall at kids' eye level. Spread posters and pictures of tropical fish, dolphins, sharks, and other sea animals for ideas.  Provide the kids with paints and markers, and let them create a mural of sea life.

"Kids are fascinated with sea life!"
Kids Love ArtReach's The Little Mermaid! Add as many characters as you like!  The Little Mermaid, Musical for Kids to Perform! Sailor Fun in The Little Mermaid!
ArtReach's The Little Mermaid -- French Chefs, Lindsey School, Chesterland, OH

Party Favors

Since kids are fascinated with sea life, any theme related items as keepsakes will do the trick! For your under the sea party favors, you can have such items as beach balls, fish squirts, straws, sticker sheets, toy dolphins, and starfishes.

Under the Sea Birthday Party Games

Pin-the-Tail on the Whale: This classic game is easy to design and set up. Just draw a large whale on paper, leaving out the tail. Then cut out "whale tails" for all your guests. Put children's initials and a double-sided tape on each tail.

At game time, blindfold the kids one by one, spin them around, and get them to pin their tail shapes where they belong.

Shark Chase: Get the kids to spread out on one side of the party area - they are fish. Scatter five or more hula hoops around the opposite side of the area (the hoops are the fish's "homes").

Select one child to be a shark, and have that player stand between the "fish" and their "homes." When the "shark" calls Shark!, he or she runs after the "fish" and tags as many as possible. The fish must reach home - step inside the hula hoop - to be safe from the shark.

Any player who is tagged becomes a shark for the next round, and tags remaining fish. For each round, take away one hula hoop until only one hoop is left. The game continues until all the fish are caught.

Beanbag Fish Toss: Place candies or small prizes in three or four pails. Place the pails against the walls. Have a couple of beanbags for children to throw. (It's ideal that you make a beanbag that looks like fish, but it's not crucial!)

Have the kids take turns throwing beanbags into a pail. Allow children to choose a prize from whatever bucket the beanbag lands in. Be sure every under the sea birthday party guest receives a prize.

Octopus Alert: Here is a great outdoor game for under the sea birthday party, and it will require water balloons. Choose one person to be an octopus. Arrange everyone else in a big circle around the octopus. Have the kids in the circle toss a water balloon back and forth, trying to keep it away from the octopus.

If the octopus pops the water balloon by batting it out of the circle, the person who threw it is out. Last child left in the circle wins.

Musical Sea Animal: Have your party guests sit in a circle. Play lively music in the background, and let the kids pass around a sea animal toy. Whenever the music stops the person holding the toy - goes out of the game, and receives a prize (e.g., favor bag). Play until everyone has won a prize.

Creature Magnets: Draw various sea creatures (e.g., seahorses, tropical fish, octopuses, etc.) on crafting foam, and cut out creature shapes. At game time, have the kids glue craft eyes onto the creature's head. Next, get them to draw a mouth with a marker. They can decorate the creature with sequins, beads, rickrack, and other craft materials.

Fish Story: Here is an activity where the kids can create their own story.  Invite all your under the sea birthday party guests to write a beginning sentence on a slip of paper about sea life. (e.g., "Once upon a time, deep under the water surface an octopus was born.") Put all the slips of paper into a bowl.

Have the kids sit in a circle. Choose one player to pick one slip from a bowl, read it out loud, and then add a sentence related to the original one (but even more exaggerated than the last). The round continues until everyone has had a chance to add a sentence. Then a new slip can be drawn from a bowl.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Discussion / Questions: Let's talk about fairy tales!

Did you know that there are many versions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Does anyone know a story different from the Disney movie?  Has anyone read the story, Little Snow-White, by The Brothers Grimm?  (Introduce the children to the concept of different stories - the play is NOT exactly like the Disney version, neither is the original Grimms' version, etc.)

What is the difference between the story "Snow White" and a Snow White story?  (A Snow White story is similar to the familiar story, Show White, but it can have different characters, different names, different location, etc.)

"There are many versions of Snow White!"
Snow White School Play for Kids! Large Cast for Lots of Kids!
Perth Youth Theatre, AU - Newington Children's Theatre, CT - ArtReach's Snow White

What are the basic elements of a Fairy Tale?

"Once upon a time."

"Kind person (treated badly)

"Bad person(s)

"Royalty or famous person

"Magic person and magic spell

"Lived happily ever after."

What if Show White wore a green dress... Could she be "Snow Green", or "Forest Green"?  Or blue? "Sky Blue and the Seven Dwarfs"?  What about "Sun Gold and the Seven Daffodils"?  (Encourage the children to be creative - maybe your play will be different,  maybe?)

Can you make up another Show White story?  About a girl in Japan?  About a boy in Africa?  About a girl in your town?  About you?  What about a fish in the ocean?  The Prince is a rock star?  The Dwarfs are Puppy-dogs?  The mirror is a TV!   (Work with the children to create a whole new Cinderella story using the elements above.  This is always lots of fun.)

What are some other fairy tales besides Snow White?  (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, etc...) 

Why are some stories called folk tales, some called fairy tales?  What is folklore? (Folk tales are old stories told and retold over many years, fairy tales are generally folk tales for kids and usually begin with "Once upon a time -"   Folklore is like folk tales, but may not be an entire story - witches flying on brooms, frogs turning into princes, are bits of folklore.)  Do you know of any folk tales or folklore that are not fairy tales? (King Arthur, Headless Horseman, Paul Bunyan, Loch Ness Monster, Tooth Fairy, Dragons, Ghosts, Goblins, Witches, etc.)

Make a Dragon Costume!
Ideas for ArtReach's The Reluctant Dragon

There are many kinds of dragons you may like to represent in your production of Artreach's The Reluctant Dragon. First you might consider the illustrations in the many book versions of Kenneth Grahame’s original short story. You may of course, receive requests from your young performers to represent Mortimer as the dragon in the popular movies, How to Train your Dragon. Don’t forget to look at the Chinese tradition of Dragons, which can be very colorful and an exciting way to introduce your students to a new culture. Finally, consider making just the mask to represent Mortimer’s costume.

Easy! Coolest Homemade Dragon Costumes: Here’s a great blog with terrific ideas on how to make dragon costumes for young performers:

The Reluctant Dragon for Kids Train your dragon in three easy steps! Widget and Hairy Toes come to love their dragon.
ArtReach's The Reluctant Dragon - Have fun with costumes for all!

How to Make Wheelchair Costumes for Kids: Turn wheelchairs into costumes! Dragons and spaceships! Use this article to imagine your own ideas for wheelchair costumes.  Article: An Oregon dad of disabled children creates larger than life Halloween costumes for his children and with help from DreamWorks and generous donors, other disabled children can shine too. Whether he's making a medieval knight or a dragon, Ryan Weimer's unconditional love for his sons Keaton, 9, and Bryce, 2, has led him to create sensational costumes for his children every year.

Read More:

Treasure Island Creative Dramatics Idea - An Introduction to Fencing
Use the resources hiding in your community!  Find experts and sponsor workshops related to your school's performance.

Find new ways to involve everyone in the community!
Classroom actvities for Treasure Island Play
Young Footliters, Iowa City - ArtReach's Treasure Island

There are hidden experts in your community.  Call theatres and other community organizations and ask about who might be available to do workshops.  Young Footliters of Iowa City identified the local Fencing Center.  These experts offered free workshops fo the community as a way to invlve others in the rehearsal process.   It's a great way to enhance publicity for your special event.

Registration: 1-3 pm (Grades 1-6)  4-6 pm (Any Grade) Where - The Iowa City Fencing Center, 415 Highland Ave, Iowa City

To celebrate Young Footliter's upcoming production of Treasure Island, the Iowa City Fencing Center has generously offered to hold an introduction to fencing class as a fundraiser for Young Footliters!

This program will take you from how to stand on guard to fencing your first bout in just two hours. You'll discover how to outwit your opponent with the play of your blade and the movements of your feet, while experiencing the thrill of scoring your first touches. This is a safe activity for all ages 6+.

This is a safe activity for all ages 6+.
Ides for educational activities for Treasure Island Kids Play
Young Footliters, Iowa City - ArtReach's Treasure Island

Clothing:  Participants will need to wear long, comfortable pants, a t-shirt, and bring clean, dry athletic shoes to put on. 

Paperwork:  There will be a registration form and waiver form for participants to fill out when you arrive. 

Adults and children ages 6 and up are welcome to participate, so parents and siblings can fence too. And of course, anyone is welcome to stay and watch.

The Story of Sadako Sasaki and A Thousand Cranes
Before the play read Sadako's true story.  Discuss how her life has changed the world.

Sadako Sasaki was born on January 7, 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. She was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, roughly two kilometers (1.25 miles) from her home. Sadako will forever be remembered as a symbol of innocent victims of war. This story is to remember her life and tenacity of spirit.

 "Sadako will forever be remembered as a symbol."
Middle School Performance of A Thousand Cranes Sadako's Story for Middle Schools
Denver Academy, CO - ArtReach's A Thousand Cranes

The play opens with meeting Sadako and her inviting the audience to hear her story. She loves to run and practices every day with her best friend and classmate, Kenji. They are preparing for a race next month and Sadako really wants to win. Kenji thinks that Sadako is fast enough to win the race. Sadako runs home to tell her parents, who are preparing for dinner and the upcoming Obon festivities.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one s ancestors. It is tradition to light a candle for each ancestor who has died. Sadako and her parents are remembering her Grandmother, Oba Chan, who died in the bombing of Hiroshima.

"Don't you remember that old story about the crane?"
Sadako Play for Kids Sadako's True Story
Denver Academy, CO - ArtReach's A Thousand Cranes

As Kenji and Sadako are out practicing for the upcoming race, Sadako becomes very dizzy and falls. She is rushed to the hospital. No one seems to know what is wrong with her. After a number of tests, the doctors conclude that Sadako has Leukemia, or the atom-bomb sickness. She has to stay in the hospital for a few weeks to get some tests done.  This means Sadako will miss the race she has been practicing for. While in the hospital, her parents and Kenji visit often. Kenji has come up with a plan to make Sadako well again.

He reminds Sadako of the story of a Thousand Cranes: Don't you remember that old story about the crane? It's supposed to live for a thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again. Sadako gets right to work making her thousand cranes. However, her leukemia is also progressing and getting worse. This makes her tired and it more difficult to fold the cranes.

"Oba Chan tells Sadako that the cranes will be completed."
Sadako's Story for Kids to Perform Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
Denver Academy, CO - ArtReach's A Thousand Cranes

One night while she is sleeping, the spirit of her grandmother, Oba Chan, comes to visit Sadako. Oba Chan takes Sadako on a journey through the spirit world showing her the spirits of others who died because of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. Oba Chan tells Sadako that she must stay in the spirit world with them. Sadako is not ready, she hasn't folded her thousand cranes. Oba Chan tells Sadako that the cranes will be completed.

Sadako died on October 25, 1955, ten years after the bomb fell. Her friends and classmates completed her thousand cranes for her. In 1958, they had a monument built to honor her memory in the Hiroshima Peace Park. Sadako s wish is engraved on the base of the statue:

This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the World.

Learning About Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker
Classroom Discussion for ArtReach's 'The Nutcracker Prince'

How to say the name: 

"Tchaikovsky" is said like Ch-eye-cough-ski. 'Pyotr Ilyich' is said like 'Peter Il-itch'. 

'The Nutcracker' is performed all over the world around Christmas time.
ArtReach's The Nutcracker Prince The Nutcracker Prince is based on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Nutcracker Prince Play for Kids to Perform
The Nutcracker Prince - Wakefield Country Day School, Washington VA

Type of music: 

Romantic classical music.  Some famous works: 

1812 Overture (for orchestra, choir and real canons!). 

Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 6. 

Swan Lake (a ballet). 

Sleeping Beauty (a ballet). 

The Nutcracker (a ballet, see next page for list of pieces) 

Piano Concerto No. 1. 

Eugene Onegin (an opera). 

The Queen of Spades (an opera). 

Marche Slave (Slavonic March for orchestra). 

Some interesting facts: 

Tchaikovsky's music is some of the most popular classical music around today. Many people who don't normally listen to classical music will recognize a tune or two by him. 

His music often has very beautiful tunes. 

His music is full of strong emotions. These strong emotions can be heard and understood very easily. 

The strongest emotions are probably in Symphony No. 6 (the 'Pathetique'). This symphony was first heard only nine days before he died. 

His music sounds Russian to people outside Russia. However, it sounded like Western European music to people in Russia at the time it was written. 

His ballets are the world's most popular ballets. And 'The Nutcracker' is performed all over the world around Christmas time. 

The 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' from 'The Nutcracker' is famous for using an instrument that was very new at the time-the celesta. This looks like a small piano and makes a tinkly sound (this instrument also appears at the beginning of the 'Harry Potter' film music).

Although the 1812 Overture is very popular, Tchaikovsky didn't really like it!

The History of The Legend of Mulan (400 AD Onward)
Ancient texts from the past 1,500 years reveal the real history behind The Legend of Mulan and how it developed into what we have today.

Around 400 AD, a poem began circulating imperial China. It told of a young girl (most likely in her early teens) who made the momentous decision to take her father's place in battle. Although modern historians now believe this poem to be fictitious, early historians (most notably, Zhu Guozhen) insisted that the Ballad of Mulan was an autobiography. Regardless of the authenticity of the original tale, this amazing story went on to inspire one of the greatest legends ever told.

For over a hundred years, the Ballad of Mulan was passed down via oral tradition, until it was finally written down during the Tang dynasty. Around this same time, several authors (Wei Yuanfu, Bai Juyi, Du Mu, and Li Rong) also wrote accounts verifying Mulan's story.

"A touching story of honor, virtue, and sacrifice."
Belgium production of Mulan Young cast for Mulan play
ArtReach's The Legend of Mulan - Jeugdtheater Crea Deinze, Deinze, Belgium

The early narratives about Mulan were are all very short. They provide enough information to verify that Mulan took her father's place in battle, served for twelve or thirteen years without her femininity ever being discovered, and was rewarded by the emperor for her accomplishments. Due to the brevity of these accounts, later authors became fascinated with Mulan's story and began embellishing it. After all, Mulan's story has such a fantastic premise that it begs to be told in a more elaborate form.

Around 1500 AD, Xu Wei wrote the play Mulan Joins the Army. Although this play was short (the unannotated manuscript is twelve pages), Xu Wei inserted reimagined the story in a way that would capture the imaginations of the common people.  Xu Wei took a lot of liberties with this play and wasn't overly concerned with historical accuracy. For example, the play included Mulan with bound feet&ldots; which is the ancient equivalent of having a woman soldier wearing sexy armor. One version of the manuscript even explicitly instructs the actress playing Mulan to change clothes in full view of the audience.

The play primarily focuses on Mulan's life as a woman. After she spends a long time preparing to go to war, the narrator blitzes through a decade of military service to show the audience Mulan resuming her life as a woman. Although no records exist of Xu Wei's play ever being performed, the printed manuscript circulated widely throughout China. Thus, in its written form, this play inspired a renewed interest in the legend.

After the Ming dynasty fell, the Chinese people found themselves under barbarian rule.  During this time, the Chinese people took solace in Mulan's story, as they desired for such a hero to rise up amongst them. The most famous retelling of Mulan's story to be written during this time was Romance of Sui and Tang by Chu Renhuo, which was written to incite feelings of animosity against those who oppressed the Chinese. In the novel, Mulan is a biracial teen who is initially loyal to the barbarian khan. Although she begins fighting against a Chinese enemy, she is captured by a Chinese princess, who turns out to be such a benevolent captor that Mulan eventually desires to return home to bring her family to dwell together with the princess. However, the khan intercepts Mulan and tries to take her as his concubine by force. When Mulan realizes that the khan will not allow her to refuse, she commits suicide on her father's grave.

"Mulan continues to be an inspiration to live virtuously."
Mulan Play for Kids to Perform Kids perform ArtReach's Mulan
ArtReach's The Legend of Mulan - Jeugdtheater Crea Deinze, Deinze, Belgium

The Complete Account of Extraordinary Mulan was a very different novel, in that it encouraged its readers to withdraw from society and rise above evil by living virtuous lives. The author, who seems to be a pacifist, uses the novel to glorify monasticism. The novel begins by focusing on Mulan's grandfather, an ambitious young scholar. As he pursues enlightenment, however, he learns the virtue of inaction. After his granddaughter Mulan is born, he teaches her the art of magic but warns that responsible use of magic is so difficult that he has never found an occasion where the use of magic would be proper. Although Mulan eventually learns how to use her power for good, evil still triumphs in the end.

One of the most famous early film adaptations of Mulan's story was the 1939 motion picture Mulan Joins the Army. Because this coincided with the early stages of Word War II, after the Japanese had already captured Nanjing (China's capital city at the time), the filmmakers desired to make it into a call to arms. This film glorifies warfare and is the first adaptation of the legend to introduce romance into Mulan's story.

After Word War II ended, China was now under communist rule. The people of Hong Kong, who were under British rule, began to wonder if they had anything left in common with the mainland. In 1998, the first English-language film adaptation of Mulan's story was released. Although Disney's Mulan was a success in America (it was the second highest grossing movie in 1998), it was poorly received in China. Almost immediately after the release of the Disney film, Starlight International Media announced plans to produce Mulan: Rise of a Warrior.

Throughout the film, Mulan struggles to put the needs of the masses above her own emotions. Being that she cares for certain comrades more than others, she repeatedly makes decisions that put her men at risk in attempt to rescue her closet friends. When her dear friend Wentai fakes his own death, Mulan is thrown into depression until she finally learns to detach herself from the battlefield.

Disney's film, is purported to draw inspiration from both Chinese and American cultures. Mulan's story has traversed the globe several times and has touched the hearts and minds of countless generations since the story was first conceived over a millennium ago. While we may never know the details of her true story (if she really did exist), Mulan continues to be an inspiration to live virtuously when faced with crisis. Throughout the ages, the legend has continued to tell the story of a woman who is prepared to sacrifice everything out of filial devotion to her father.   The legend always has been, and always will be, a touching story of honor, virtue, and sacrifice.

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