Ernest & Célestine (2012) is thus brave to venture back into hand-drawn animation.
Ernest & Célestine is based on the children's stories of Gabrielle Vincent about a mouse and a bear (and ne'er the twain shall meet). Above ground, the bears go about their daily business; Ernest is an impoverished recluse, living in a rundown cottage on the outskirts of the town, scraping by with his one-man-band and the occasional petty theft or two. Meanwhile, Célestine lives in the depths of the sewers, her fellow mice operating a vast metropolis-style city which they have built over the years. Scared with tales of vengeful bears, the mice are kept underground, only journeying out on dangerous missions to steal bear teeth.
A Town Called Panic (2009), join Benjamin Renner to prove how considering the source can pay off. Their decision to use watercolour techniques, in-keeping with the original illustrations, produces a warm and loving adaptation which appeals to the value of faithful cinematography.
The mice and bears are simply animated, similar in approach to the drawings of Quentin Blake whose work always seemed uncompromisingly innocent. Palely coloured but rich with detail, Ernest & Célestine recaptures a magic to animation, told through warm-hearted storylines and interesting characters. It is also scored with equally appropriate tunes; French horns and flutes give energy and tone to the film, pressing on the emotive scenes and lighting up the joyful ones. In this sense, the film actually feels very French; though this might sound like a generalisation, an extra level of identity and character to the animation is shaped, clearly focused on its origins and able to weave attributes from farcical plot lines to quirky bits of Franco humour.
Ernest & Célestine slipped under the radars of many at this year's London Film Festival, perhaps having been simplistically placed in the 'Family' section, but it is one to celebrate. It is testament to the extensive power of children's literature, the warmth of storybook illustration and how the big screen can aid them.
Ernest & Célestine is released in French cinemas on 12 December, 2012. A UK release courtesy of StudioCanal is scheduled for 2013.