Duration: 80 minutes
Directors: Denisa Grimmová, Jan Bubeníček
By Caz Armstrong
This stop-motion animation is gorgeous and soul-warming. It’s a lovely adventure through animal heaven learning how to be better creatures despite our upbringings and differences.
Whizzy is a little mouse living in the forest with her brothers and processing the death of her father who was recently eaten by a fox. She pretends to be the bravest mouse in the world but underneath she’s scared practically all the time. In order to prove her bravery she provokes a fox called Whitebelly… which sadly ends in both of them going to animal heaven.
Here in heaven all animals go through a journey to learn something about themselves in order to be reincarnated. An angry animal might need to learn the importance of keeping calm, or a scaredy animal might need to learn true bravery.
As our heroes embark on their adventure they learn that different types of animals might not be all you think they are, and that creatures with different backgrounds can still be best of friends.
The land that Whizzy and Whitebelly inhabit is a finely crafted miniature world with tiny plants, animal burrows and even an adorable little mouse-school. There are over 100 animal characters (look out for the screamingly adorable bush baby) and 11 different sets. Heaven is just as finely imagined with a washing pool, fun fare and the mysterious ‘forest of forests’. The intricate miniature detail makes the whole film a piece of art in itself.
The themes of death, and of addressing past trauma and learned behaviour are fairly deep for a kids’ film. But they’re presented in an accessible way and are not very upsetting. Even as someone who is especially sensitive about animals, it was very sensitively portrayed so as to get the themes across without any of the upset. Although that will depend on the child’s own life experiences of course. If watching with a little one who has lost a parent or loved one, you may wish to prepare accordingly.
The key message is that no matter what or who we miss, we can’t go back to the past. We must keep going forwards, learning and changing and becoming better creatures as we do. We can be better people for doing so, and that’s what makes it so uplifting. Friendship and love are more powerful than anything that might happen to us, or any assumptions we might make of others.
The only real drawback is Whizzy’s very trill voice, although that’s pretty much unavoidable when voicing a tiny young mouse. Still, it may get a little grating for those unaccustomed to children’s content.
Is it very twee? Well, yes, but it’s adorable and touching too. I hope this film gets a wide release, it would do very well as a mid-morning Christmas day special on the BBC with an accompanying spread in the Radio Times. It’s emotional enough to have a significant impact while being accessible enough for everyone. With luscious visuals and adorable animals “Even Mice Belong in Heaven”(2021) is a real gem.