CBS Storybreak "What Happened in Hamelin" (lost episode from animated series; 1987)

From The Lost Media Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
What Happened in Hamelin book.png

Cover of the original What Happened in Hamelin book

Status: Lost

"What Happened in Hamelin" is the 19th episode of the animated literary anthology TV series CBS Storybreak. It premiered as the 3rd episode of Season 3 on October 3rd, 1987[1]. Like all Storybreak episodes it is an adaptation of a critically-acclaimed YA novel, in this case Gloria Skurzynski's 1979 Booklist Reviewer's Choice Award winner of the same name.[2] Even the episode's technical credits are unknown, aside from the fact that along with the rest of the series it was co-produced by Hanna-Barbera Australia and Southern Star Entertainment for CBS Entertainment Productions.[1] [3]


The plot of the novel is an attempt to reframe the Pied Piper legend in its literal, historical context - given that roughly 130 children are, in fact, recorded as disappearing from the town on a single night in 1284, for a reason now wholly unknown. The tale of the Piper is thought to have grown up around attempts to cope with the tragedy. But if the children weren't actually lured away by dark musical magic, what could have happened to them? Who might the Piper have actually been?

Skurzynski's take on these questions unfolds via the perspective of the one child who, according to the original legend, could not follow the Piper out of the town: Geist (German for 'Ghost') a 14-year-old baker's apprentice who is envious of the newcomer's apparently carefree lifestyle and becomes his protege, with the mysterious figure demanding total, unquestioning obedience in exchange. Geist soon becomes disenchanted with his new master as they execute his plan for destroying Hamelin's rats - a plan involving grain tainted with ergot, a fatally poisonous fungus that causes those who ingest it to 'dance' convulsively - and the boy realizes that, thanks to the town elders' greed and dishonesty, their children may be in line for the same horrifying fate.

The Storybreak animated adaptation seems to have followed this plot fairly closely, although synopses and a still of the episode indicate Geist is joined in the animated version of his adventures by a young girl, not further identified but presumably another of Hamelin's children.[4] Otherwise details are scarce but hint broadly as to why this episode in particular was never officially revisited; a Goodreads review calls the book 'a straight-up horror novel for kids' and suggests the animated adaptation's ending is even more unsettling.[5]


In the years following production the 26 CBS Storybreak episodes generally became difficult to find, especially as - presumably due to the uniquely complicated copyright issues involved - the series was never given an official home media release outside of some individual episodes on VHS. These along with most of the rest have gradually resurfaced online, leaving "What Happened in Hamelin" as one of only two still lost (the other is episode 25, "Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel With the Wrinkled Knees"). The Goodreads reviewer quoted above indicates that "Hamelin" was in fact uploaded to YouTube at one point but was quickly taken down, probably thanks to the aforementioned rights issues.

As of 2023, other than a single still frame of uncertain provenance and the 'Next week on...'-style preview following the previous week's episode ("The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek") which can be seen at the end of the episode on YouTube and separately on Facebook, no trace of "What Happened in Hamelin" can be found online. However, since Storybreak was a notably popular and prestigious show based on likewise prestigious material, it's quite possible that copies were provided to schools and libraries for educational purposes, and may still be held in an archive somewhere. There is also the equally good possibility that the episode was recorded to home video.



A still frame claimed to be from the episode, showing the Piper, Geist and the unidentified girl.


Next Saturday preview following a copy of the episode, "The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek." Promo starts at 9:10.

See Also

External Link


  1. 1.0 1.1 Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. p. 193. ISBN 978-1476665993
  2. What Happened in Hamelin (1979) on Internet Archive Retrieved 29 Dec 2022
  3. The series' Wikipedia page
  4. Info about the various episodes including "What Happened in Hamelin" Retrieved 26 Aug. '21
  5. Goodreads page for Skurzynski's novel, including references to the animated adaptation