The story features an all-Asian cast as the eponymous characters: a poor toymaker (played by Jim Ishida), his son, Hansel, and daughter, Gretel (played by Andy Lee and Allison Hong), and his wicked new wife (played by Michael Yama), who overtly despises her stepchildren. One evening at dinner, Hansel and Gretel decide to tease their stepmother. She becomes so fed up of their games that she hits them and sends them into their attic bedroom. Their father waits until his cruel wife is asleep and goes into the attic with a small clown puppet he'd made and a few cookies he'd sneaked for them to cheer the children up. He then puts the children to bed and sets down a small swan toy before turning into bed himself.
The next morning, the stepmother decides to take Hansel and Gretel for a walk in the labyrinthine forest. Certain that the children would be unable to find their way out on their own, she abandons them by tossing a small firework toy in the children's path to distract them. Unbeknownst to their wicked stepmother, Gretel had told Hansel to pick up a pile of small stones near the house and drop them so they may find their way home, knowing their stepmother's plot. The children manage to find their way back home that same evening using the stones Hansel had dropped.
While their father is in town selling his toys the next morning, the children's stepmother, unhappy with their return, decides to take the children on another walk in the woods. Before leaving the house, she gives the children a toy duck, telling them it is one of their father's toys. The children, not trusting their stepmother, once again leave a trail of stones behind them on their path. As they walked, the toy duck they were dragging had, unbeknownst to them, been eating the stone trail they left along the way. Once again they find themselves deserted in the woods, but this time with no direction home. Hansel and Gretel have no choice but to sleep in the woods that night. As they slept, the toy duck slowly transforms into a small toy robot which leads them to a house made of gingerbread and candy.
As the children eat the house's facade, the candy cane-nosed witch who lives within the gingerbread house lures them inside with the promise of sweets. The witch brings the children to her dining table where an enormous cake sits, adorned with small cutouts of Hansel and Gretel. When the children try to eat the cake, they find that it is only a decoration. The witch then tells them the furniture and even the walls of the house are real candy, which the children happily and greedily enjoy. The witch, seemingly upset with herself for not thinking how tired the children must be, bring Hansel and Gretel upstairs to a large bedroom with two giant marshmallow beds for them to sleep in. They lie in the two beds the witch prepared and are immediately captured by the now living beds. Hansel escapes for a moment before the witch catches him once more and drops him back on the bed. The bed then reveals a mouth-like doorway in the wall which drops Hansel into a cavernous room with a strange mobile hanging down from the ceiling.
The mobile drops what appears at first to be a large lump of dough which emerges from behind the boy as a creepy clown-like gingerbread man named Dan Dan. Dan Dan insists that Hansel eat him and begins driving Hansel crazy with his incessant screaming on the matter. Finally, Hansel takes Dan Dan's head, the one part he refused to eat, and throws him into the wall, shattering Dan Dan to pieces. The witch, by this point, had taken Gretel down to the kitchen to begin heating the oven to cook Hansel. The witch pulls a chain hanging from her ceiling which causes two long arms to drop from the mobile above Hansel and bring him back up to the kitchen so she could begin baking him. Before the witch can shove Hansel into her oven, however, Gretel grabs the fire iron beside the oven and hits the witch in the back with it. Enraged, the witch fights the children in a kung fu-style battle.
The children, seeing the oven has opened once more, lure the witch to them. As they stand before the roaring furnace, the witch takes a flying kick in their direction, flinging herself accidentally into her own oven. Hansel and Gretel lock the witch inside the oven as the house begins to melt and ooze with frosting. Hansel and Gretel narrowly escape the melting house and watch as it becomes no more than a river of melted candy. Suddenly, the toy swan their father had given them the evening before appears on the melted candy river in the form of a small boat and leads the children back home to their happy father. He explains that he forced their wicked stepmother to leave their home, fed up with her want to get rid of his children. As the children celebrate with their father, the swan boat begins to spout gold coins from its mouth, thus providing them with the wealth they have needed.
- Jim Ishida — father
- Michael Yama — stepmother/wicked witch
- Andy Lee — Hansel
- Alison Hong — Gretel
- David Koenigsberg — gingerbread man
- Vincent Price — host
Filmed for $116,000 on 16mm, this live-action short film featured a cast of amateur Japanese actors, kung fu fights (despite kung fu being Chinese) and Japanese toys, as Burton was obsessed with Japanese culture at the time of production. The film's design style and color schemes paid homage to the Godzilla movies and is said to be heavy on special effects, making use of front projection, forced perspective and even some stop-motion animation. Most reputable sources claim the film runs a full 45 minutes, but other fan reviews have a listed runtime anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, though the full run time is 34 minutes and 17 seconds.
A New York Times article states that this was screened at Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) as part of a Tim Burton special exhibition which ran from November 22, 2009 to April 26, 2010. It was part of a traveling exhibit, and the last time it was shown was in Paris, where the exhibition ended in August 2012.
In June 2014, a copy of the short appeared in its entirety online.
- Hansel and Gretel at Internet Movie Database
- MoMA Site
- La Cinémathèque française
- Hansel and Gretel Download at MEGA
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