Wednesday 26 September 2018

Ernest & Célestine: The Blizzard (J. Roger/J. Chheng, 2016)

The feature film Ernest & Célestine was released in 2012 to huge acclaim, and its momentum continued all the way to the 2014 Oscars where it eventually (and predictably) lost out to Disney juggernaut Frozen.  Adapted from the well-loved series of books by Belgian writer-illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, the film's feet were planted firmly in the gentle source material, with little of the riotous, anarchic spirit of co-directors Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier's earlier A Town Called Panic in evidence.

The Blizzard arrives as one of 26 episodes included in television series Ernest & Célestine: The Collection.  Each instalment is 13 minutes long and the show, like the feature film, is co-produced by Belgian broadcaster RTBF.  The bite-sized nature of the episodes means that they are even more suited to very young viewers than the feature film was, and the benign, soothing content is a good fit for the form.

With temperatures dropping and a blizzard raging, the bears are thinking about hibernating.  Well, all bears except Ernest, who feels that these soft city bears can't handle a bit of chilly weather.  Célestine the mouse, however, knows how important it is for a bear to have a full stomach before going into hibernation, and sets about making her grumpy friend some cookies.  Unfortunately, there's no flour in the cupboards, so Célestine braves the cold in search of the missing ingredient.

The standard of animation here is pretty much the same as that found in the film, which is not always the case when an animated feature gets a TV spin-off.  If anything, you could say that the quality of the animation is deserving of a slightly livelier story, as the actual tale is rather low-key.  But to say that would be to largely miss the point of who this is aimed at; appropriately enough, it screens (on the 20th of October) as part of the London Film Festival's Animated Shorts for Younger Audiences.

Darren Arnold

Image: Folivari