Review: Moomins and the Winter Wonderland

Year: 2017
Duration: 1h 22m
Director: Ira Carpelan and Jakub Wronski
Writer: Ira Carpelan
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Alicia Vikander, Bill Skarsgård

By Caz Armstrong

Millions of people grew up watching the Moomins; the Finnish forest creatures that look a bit like hippos and their various trollish friends. This film sees the Moomin family in the heart of winter preparing for Christmas, something they’ve never experienced before.

This film might rekindle the childhood of the adults watching bit they may have a bit of explaining on their hands if they want the children to stick it out for the full run time. As inventive and charming as the stop motion animation might be, it wasn’t quite enough to sustain the rather choppy story.

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“Moomins and the Winter Wonderland” (2017) has our Moomin friends settling down to hibernate for the winter. They’ve made their preserves and collected their mushrooms ready. Young Moomintroll is keen to learn more about what happens in winter because he normally sleeps through it.

Once fast asleep a health-obsessed home invader breaks in to wake them up and make sure they get up and exercise.

Now wide awake the Moomins learn how to prepare for the mysterious visitor called Christmas. They decorate a tree, make a Christmas meal and welcome visitors into their home.

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The Moomins were created by Finnish artist Tove Jansson and the first Moomin book “The Moomins and the Great Flood” was published in 1945. The first television series was shown in Germany in 1959 and it featured wooden puppets. The first animated series was made in Japan in 1969 and the Moomins are still beloved around the world.

As well as books, stage shows, a museum, a theme park and an opera the Moomins have had various film and television iterations over the years, from stop motion to puppets, live action, CGI and animation.

This film was made from existing stop motion footage from the 1980s so it has that warm old-school charm. The characters are mostly felt pieces but there are a few other kinds of animation in there too. I particularly liked the use of the white sand snow swirls layered on top of the scenes.

“Perhaps because it was made from previous footage put together the narrative itself didn’t manage to keep my attention…None of it was particularly captivating though and it didn’t hang together that well.”

This created a sense of nostalgia and shows how much effort goes in to creating physical works like this from scratch. It’s a real art and something that’s missing from a lot of modern CGI kids’ films and TV shows.

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I admit I did find some of the characters a bit creepy looking though. The fixed faces and dry hair were a bit gargoyle-like. None of the characters had moving mouths and their eyes were fixed which meant they were essentially expressionless. All of the work had to come from the voices and while they did very well, that hurdle was just too high.

Moomin Pappa is voiced by Stellan Skarsgård, Moomintroll is voiced by Bill Skarsgård and both Sorry-oo and Littly My are voiced by Oscar-winning Alicia Vikander. There was an endless array of characters with names I didn’t pick up but a more avid fan might love to see them all.

Perhaps because it was made from previous footage put together the narrative itself didn’t manage to keep my attention. It was more of a series of short stories as the Moomins and creatures learned various things and put Christmas in place. None of it was particularly captivating though and it didn’t hang together that well.

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It’s aimed at young children but the story might not hold their attention long enough to see it to the end. But even if they don’t stick it out the film doesn’t require a high degree of closure. So, at least they would still enjoy the wintery scenery and the Moomin characters. It’s a chance to introduce them to something you may have loved from childhood.

2.5 stars


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