Off the Shelf: All-Star Emporer


John Lithgow as the Emperor?

Harrison Ford as one of the two thievish weavers?

Steven Spielberg as the Honest Boy?

Yes, please!

Add Nathan Lane as the Imperial Dresser, Madonna as the Empress, Jeff Goldblum as the Imperial Wizard, Dan Aykroyd as the Holy Man, Robin Williams as the Court Jester, Rosie O’Donnell as the Imperial Throne, and (my favorite) Calvin Klein as the Emperor’s Underwear, this is one star-studded ensemble.

And I’m not talking about a movie.

All this star power was recruited to put together a killer version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” published in 1998 by Harcourt-Brace on behalf of the Starbright Foundation, a charity that helps kids cope with serious illness.

The book comes with a CD of the famous ones reading their respective chapters.

The book itself is something to behold. The publishers rolled out the red carpet when it came to the illustrations, bringing the likes of Quentin Blake and Maurice Sendak and a host of others.

Each chapter features a different character in the story, but the whole thing is narrated by a little moth illustrated by Quentin Blake.


In this retelling, the evil Prime Minister hires two scoundrels to pose as weavers and dress the Emperor in his birthday suit at the big parade.


The weavers say that only the most intelligent and suave can see their fine fabrics, so the Imperial Dresser won’t admit that he sees nothing.


There are a lot of characters in this version that aren’t in the original. For example, the Emperor has two children, voiced by Melissa Joan Hart and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, two obviously of-the-moment picks but who still bring back memories of my tween years. Robin Williams also makes a punny appearance as the junk-in-the-trunk Court Jester.




Some of the illustrations resemble the stars who voice the characters, especially the portrait of the Empress. Guess who?


Other famous people were chosen because they have something in common with the character they voice. For example, Desert Storm Commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf is the Imperial General, and undie icon Calvin Klein voices the Emperor’s briefs.



To pack more famous people into this production, even objects are given voice. For example, there is the Imperial Mirror, voiced by Geena Davis, and the Imperial Horn, voiced by Fran Drescher.



Of course, the story wouldn’t be complete without the Honest Boy, the youngster from the crowd who had the good sense to call a spade a spade. His big bosomed mother tried to keep him from disturbing the parade, but it was no use. The boy couldn’t contain himself.



Even though this book is more about the movie stars than the story, it’s still worth it for the illustrations.


What do you think of a book like this? Would you read it to your child?


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