The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999) poster

The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999)


USA. 1999.


Director – John Henderson, Teleplay – Peter Barnes, Producer – Paul Lowin, Photography – Clive Tickner, Music – Richard Harvey, Visual Effects Supervisor – Adam MacInnes, Digital Visual Effects/Animation – Cinesite (Europe) Ltd (Supervisor – Matt Johnson), Special Effects Supervisor – Stuart Brisdon, Prosthetic Makeup – Carter White FX, Animatronics – The Puppet Factory, Production Design – Simon Holland. Production Company – Hallmark Entertainment.


Randy Quaid (Jack Woods), Colm Meaney (Seamus Muldoon), Orla Brady (Kathleen Fitzpatrick), Daniel Betts (Mickey Muldoon), Zoe Wanamaker (Mary Muldoon), Caroline Carver (Princess Jessica), Whoopi Goldberg (The Grand Banshee), Tony Curran (Sean Devine), Kieran Culkin (Barney Devine), Kevin McKidd (Jericho O’Grady), Michael Williams (Father Daley), Jonathan Firth (Count Grogan), Phyllida Law (Lady Margaret), Roger Daltrey (King Boric), Harriet Walter (Queen Morag), Frank Finlay (General Bulstrode), Peter Serafinowicz (George Fitzpatrick), Gary Lydon (James Fitzpatrick), Conor McDermottroe (John Fitzpatrick), Owen Sharpe (Harry Fitzpatrick)


Jack Woods is sent from New York to rural Kerry in Ireland to assess the land for tourist redevelopment. Jack sees a man being washed away on a log and jumps into the river to rescue him. He is startled to find that the man is Seamus Muldoon, a leprechaun who lives in the cottage that Jack has just rented. Jack befriends Seamus and his feisty wife Mary. Jack also becomes attracted to his neighbour Kathleen Fitzpatrick after accidentally seeing her bathing in the river. However, Kathleen and her brothers are determined to lynch Jack as a peeping tom. Meanwhile, Seamus’s son Mickey and his friends have snuck into the Summer Ball of the fairies, the leprechauns’ traditional enemies, to create mischief. Instead Mickey ends up falling for the Fairy King’s daughter Jessica. Mickey’s determined efforts to return and see Jessica bring the leprechauns and fairies to war with one another but because the leprechauns and fairies have ignored The Grand Banshee’s warnings, their war is causing the balance of nature to go amok.

The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns is a tv mini-series from Hallmark Entertainment, the production division of the Hallmark tv channel. Hallmark have made a great many adaptations of classic literary works and mini-series/movies based on fairytales, myths and legends. The Magical Land of the Leprechauns is not based on any other works; rather it roots itself in the leprechauns of Irish legend, which have appeared on films numerous times – see the likes of The Luck of the Irish (1948), Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Finian’s Rainbow (1968), Leapin’ Leprechauns! (1995), The Luck of the Irish (2001), and of course the horror film Leprechaun (1993) and sequels.

The mini-series comes with an appealingly silly giddiness – buggy races, leprechauns riding sheep, dances everywhere (the mini-series has clearly takes a few leafs from the Riverdance fad that was massive at the time it was made). It is all run over with a lively lilting score. There are some lovely locations (which ironically were shot in England rather than Ireland). Director John Henderson creates some appealingly imaginative fantastical touches – butter spirits, a headless ghost, a frog that blows a bubble that encases it and gently carries it up through the air, a salmon leaping out of the river to spit in Randy Quaid’s face.

Daniel Betts and Caroline Carver in The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999)
Love between leprechaun and fairy – Daniel Betts and Caroline Carver

The sequence where the leprechauns are tossed through the air to assail the fairy palace and the others all scale up on ropes is visually magnificent. The scene where the Fitzpatrick brothers give the leprechauns military training is a comic gem. The visual effects that allow miniature and full-size actors to be combined together are expertly done.

The script is predictable and one can see all the arcs that the characters will take – Randy Quaid has an eminently obvious one of the man from the business fast lane who comes to discover the beauties of rural life; while you can equally easily see that he will inevitably get together with Orla Brady despite their prickly first meeting. The leprechaun/fairy romance across warring factions has been borrowed from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1597). It all proves an enjoyable and appealingly lively concoction.

British director John Henderson has made various other tv work like The Borrowers (1993), Jack and the Beanstalk (1998), Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998), as well as films such as Loch Ness (1996), Me-Shee: The Water Giant (2005) and Tales of the Riverbank (2008). Screenwriter Peter Barnes has also written a number of other Hallmark productions, including Merlin (1998), Alice in Wonderland (1999) and Arabian Nights (2000).

Whoopi Goldberg as The Grand Banshee in The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999)
Whoopi Goldberg as The Grand Banshee

Hallmark’s other works of genre note are:– the sf mini-series White Dwarf (1995), The Canterville Ghost (1996), Gulliver’s Travels (1996), Harvey (1996), the Christmas musical Mrs Santa Claus (1996), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1996), the children’s horror Shadow Zone: The Undead Express (1996), the medical thriller Terminal (1996), The Odyssey (1997), the cloning thriller The Third Twin (1997), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), the monster movie Creature (1998), Merlin (1998), the sf film Virtual Obsession (1998), Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1999), Alice in Wonderland (1999), Animal Farm (1999), A Christmas Carol (1999), the tv series Farscape (1999-2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1999), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999), Arabian Nights (2000), the modernised Hamlet (2000), Jason and the Argonauts (2000), Prince Charming (2000), the mini-series The 10th Kingdom (2000) set in an alternate world where fairy-tales are true, the medical thriller Acceptable Risk (2001), The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001), Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001), The Monkey King/The Lost Empire (2001), My Life as a Fairytale: Hans Christian Andersen (2001), Snow White (2001), the series Tales from the Neverending Story (2001), the fantasy adventure Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), the Sherlock Holmes film The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002), Dinotopia (2002), The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), the Christmas film Mr St. Nick (2002), the Christmas film Santa Jr (2002), Snow Queen (2002), the modernised A Carol Christmas (2003), Children of Dune (2003), the American Indian legends mini-series Dreamkeeper (2003), the children’s monster film Monster Makers (2003), Angel in the Family (2004), A Christmas Carol (2004), Earthsea (2004), 5ive Days to Midnight (2004) about forewarning of the future, Frankenstein (2004), King Solomon’s Mines (2004), the Christmas film Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (2004), Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005), Hercules (2005), the thriller Icon (2005), Meet the Santas (2005), Mysterious Island (2005), the disaster mini-series Supernova (2005), The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (2006), the alien invasion mini-series Final Days of Planet Earth (2006), Merlin’s Apprentice (2006), the bird flu disaster mini-series Pandemic (2006), the disaster mini-series 10:15 Apocalypse (2006), the psychic drama Carolina Moon (2007), the psychic drama Claire (2007) and the ghost story Something Beneath (2007).

Trailer here

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