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The Moomins – those chubby, hippo-like creatures, known for their philosophical thinking and peaceful way of life— are now featuring in a hand-drawn animated film. The project is part of their curator Tove Jansson's 100th birthday celebrations.

The film, Moomins on the Riviera, is based on a comic book first published in 1955, inspired by Jansson's holiday in the region. The book was made in cooperation with her brother Lars Jansson. Today, the Jansson legacy lives on through Lars' daughter Sophia Jansson.

"A few years ago, Sophia told me that it was a pity nobody had been interested in making any films based on the original comic strips," says producer Hanna Hemiä. As the French have a long tradition with both comic strips and animation film, it had occurred to her that they might be interested in a Moomin adaptation

Having French animation director Xavier Picard's number in her phone book saw the project become a reality when he came on board. The project began 4.5 years ago.

As the title suggests, the film sees the Moomins heading to the Riviera, rubbing shoulders with high society.

"One reason for choosing Moomins on the Riviera was that it had never been shown before," Hemilä says. "Another reason was that the comic strip takes the family out of the Moomin Valley. The conflicts they have on the Riviera reveal more clearly what kind of characters the Moomins are."

The film has, however, stirred upset among some parents. It features Moominpappa getting drunk and Snorkmaiden gambling and flirting. Nonetheless, the film has proved to be highly successful both in Finland – where it was the most popular film on the weekend it premiered – and internationally.

"The film has been most admired for its colours, design, animation style, music, and sound. For me, the best thing about making it was the enthusiastic team," Hemilä says.

Moomins on the Riviera is a clever film, full of surprises and humour. It has an old-fashioned, delicate charm to it – a fitting tribute to Tove Jansson's beloved work.

MARI STORPELLINEN

HELSINKI TIMES

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