The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2005) – reviewed by George

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is a 10-minute animated film from Scholastic that tells the story of Philipe Petit, the French wire-walker and street entertainer who walked a high wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. It is designed as a children’s film and is very big on numbers: the towers, the tallest buildings in New York City, were 1,340 feet high, a quarter of a mile; the wire cable was 7/8 inch thick; Philippe’s balancing pole was 28 feet long. Dressed as construction workers he and his team rode the elevators up as far as they could, but at that time the top ten floors were still under construction (hence the appropriateness of their disguise), and they had to haul everything up ten flights of stairs to the roof. The narration relates how Philippe’s performance was both terrifying and beautiful to the spectators, how he walked and danced (and even laid down on the wire) for almost an hour, back and forth, before he surrendered to the police who had gathered on the roof to arrest him, and how, once he had been arrested, the judge sentenced him to perform in the park for the children of the city. “This he did happily.”
The narration ends: “Now the towers are gone. But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there. And part of that memory is the joyful morning August 7, 1974, when Philippe Petit walked between them in the air.”
The film is based on the book by Mordicai Gerstein, narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal, directed by Michael Sporn, with animation by Tissa David, Matthew Clinton, and Michael Sporn, and music by Michael Bacon.
This is so much more than just a short film about Petit and the Twin Towers. It’s a wonderful, touching tribute to all buildings, feats, people, and things worth remembering.

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