Finally saw Ernest and Celestine. I can't say I loved it completely, but it was still a good team production from France, Belgium and Luxembourg. I had been feeling run down from work, but Ernest and Celestine had already left the Valley/LA area. I had to drive down to Long Beach to see it, but it was worth it. The version I caught was in English. Oh yes, spoiler alert for folks who haven't seen it yet.
In their world, mice fear being eaten by bears. Lauren Bacall lends her voice to "The Grey One", the elderly matron mouse who runs the orphanage where Celestine lives. "The Grey One" reinforces their fears by telling the mouse children horror stories about the bears. In their initial meeting, Ernest attempts to eat Celestine, but only because Ernest is literally the starving artist. I think. Celestine brings Ernest back in line with a quick smack on the nose, sort of the way Dorothy did with the Cowardly Lion.
My feeling is that their prejudices are manufactured: Bears are portrayed as voracious monsters, and mice are shown to be greedy little parasites that would run amok. This seems to benefit the bears who dominate the surface, but the mice seem to be trapped underground. This obviously gives control to the leaders on both sides, and keeps each population subdued. After being underground all her life, Celestine is struck by the beauty of the surface world after the snow finally melts.
I like the matter of fact way in which one bear father runs a candy store, and his wife runs a "tooth boutique" across the street. Creative destruction is good for business it seems. However, the bear couple forbid their cub from eating candy. They have a little racket going, and they don't want their son being one of their victims. Strangely enough, getting new teeth is just like buying a new flash drive for the bears. Just plugin and go!
The emphasis on the mice children gathering teeth from the bears left me squirming in my chair a bit. The mice need replacement teeth, since chewing and gnawing is the only way to build and maintain their infrastructure. Dentistry is big business, and William H. Macy did a sublimely insidious job as the voice of the head dentist in the English dub. Most mice children are expected to become dentists, since so much of their population spend a lot of time in the chair!
I did like the open line, freehand artwork and the watercolor art style. All the animation was done on Cintiqs with good old Flash. With all the expensive overhead, and dependance on cutting edge technology and software, the production of Ernest and Célestine is a refreshing return to what makes us love animation. They still used current technology, but the story, design, color and character animation make Ernest et Célestine a nice little gem.