Susan Verde’s Gie Gie is unlike any princess you’ve met before, and her story isn’t quite a Disney or Brothers Grimm-infused fairytale. In fact, The Water Princess’ tale is all too real, and no less extraordinary.
Gie Gie’s story springs to life in FableVision’s recent collaboration with Weston Woods, an animated adaptation of Verde’s award-winning text. Inspired by the childhood of model and activist Georgie Badiel and published by Penguin Random House in 2016, The Water Princess’ young protagonist rules over a village in Africa, singing a song of “can”s: “I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars” she speaks with pride, “I can tame the wild dogs with my song, I can make the tall grass sway when I dance… I can make the wind play hide and seek.”
Gie Gie’s strength and positivity, combined with Verde’s poetics, Peter H. Reynolds’ rich illustrations, a brand new soundtrack and voice-over dialogue, and two new visual scenes offer an exquisite, thought-provoking narrative that brings the global issue of clean water access to light. Gie Gie’s struggle is a reality for nearly one billion people globally; she reminds younger and older audiences alike that that they share the “earth and sky” with so many others, and that, though we have many miles to go before these issues are solved, there is always room to dance on the way. Moreover, The Water Princess features a resilient woman of color as its lead and role model. Like Badiel, whose efforts have transformed Western African lives and encouraged greater universal awareness, Gie Gie redefines what it means to be a princess and to truly care for the space and communities around you.
Ultimately, Gie Gie’s magic lies both within the natural world and herself (sure, Cinderella could talk to birds, but I found Princess Gie Gie’s “powers” much cooler). And, though Gie Gie has no time for fancy ball gowns, she does have time for dancing (“the miles give us room to dance”), which she does alongside her mother as the two journey across Gie Gie’s African “kingdom” in search of water—the one thing that, try as she might, she cannot summon. Princess Gie Gie refuses to lose hope that “someday” things will be different, dreaming of clearer water and change.
Peter Reynolds’ fun whimsical drawings truly brought Gie Gie and her environment to life. With rich earthy tones and expressive actions, FableVision created an engaging animation following the story and emulating Peter Reynolds’ illustrative style. Experience Gie Gie’s journey for yourself; get the film on Weston Woods’ site here and get your own copy of the book here.