Moominvalley- Complete Series Review

I have a deep love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, either when talking about the creepy 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release or my visit to Moomin World in Finland.

Moomin World was a great place to visit.

Moomin World was a great place to visit.

What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being an edge lord  with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life:

“I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes and dream!”
 – Moomintroll (Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip - Book One)

“The world is full of great and wonderful things for those who are ready for them.”
 – Moominpappa (Moominpappa at Sea)

“You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is.”
 – Snufkin (Comet In Moominland)

“When one’s dead, then one’s dead. This squirrel will become earth all in his time. And later on still there’ll grow trees from him, with new squirrels skipping about in them. Do you think that’s so very sad?”
 – Too-Ticky (Moominland Midwinter)

When a comic and book series speaks such profound truths, how can one not fall in love with the world.
With the Easter release of 13 Moominvalley episodes I had an opportunity to enjoy the show with my family; my two young daughters and my wife. They knew the characters from the various items strewn around the house, the children's books and our visit to Moomin World but had never seen the show so this was exciting for them. So how was it? Well, the CGI reinvention was attractive enough but not remarkable. The lush vistas of Moominvalley and the crystal clear rivers and lakes are wonderfully realised in computer animation but I do always feel that there is something lost in translation when a comic undergoes a CGI movie transformation, although the recent Charlie Brown movie did have texture and expressive lines to bring those characters and world alive. Here, it's quite difficult to bring large white hippopotami to life as they are quite a basic shape and have tiny mouths at the side of their face.

The voice acting is very strong and Taron Egerton shines as young Moomin troll. Matt Berry voices Moomin Papa but with his distinct voice and cadence I found it hard to take his character seriously, he does pompous and self-aggrandising well but does subtlety less so. The music is sublime, all slow acoustic sounding stuff with lush vocal from Tom Odell, Mo, First Aid Kit and many more acoustic musicians that suits the mood of the show well.

Overall, the show isn't going to set the world alight but it is a slow, meditative half hour of animation with interesting stories to tell; they are heartfelt and gently affecting.

The highlights for me were episode 5, The Secret of the Hattifatteners and episode 10, Ghost Story. The Secret of the Hattifatteners is quite spooky and sets up an interesting mystery and the finale really does leave you in awe and wonder while Ghost Story is sweet and the conclusion of that is a bit of a tear-jerker, when the credits rolled I was blinking quickly as it really got to me.

Moominvalley is a slow, meditative half hour of animation that is a tonic in this golden age of media. With the hyper-kinetic energy of other shows often being an assault on the sense, Moominvalley is a slow paced oasis of calm. It is a sweet and wonderful show that can be enjoyed by all the family.

New Moominvalley Soundtrack on Vinyl

I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent classic 80s animation vinyl soundtrack release, the exhibition at the Southbank Centre or when I mentioned visiting Moomin World in Finland.

With the new Moominvalley show premiering on Sky One on Good Friday this Easter I am super excited and today, I received the new vinyl soundtrack. I’ve only listened to it a couple of times and love it. I’ll write a review once I’ve listened to it more.

Moomin Valley Soundtrack

I am beyond excited or the new animated Moomin Valley series, which is due to air over Easter. I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release and the exhibition at the Southbank Centre. What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being edgy with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life.

The new series will have a star studded album and will be released on CD, streaming platforms and on vinyl. I look forward to buying a vinyl album but which one? Now that’s a tough choice!

The track list is below:

  1. ‘I’M FAR AWAY’ (THEME SONG) BY

  2. ‘STARLIGHT’ PERFORMED BY ALMA

  3. ‘SUMMER DAY’ PERFORMED BY TOM ODELL

  4. ‘BACK TO THE CAVE’ PERFORMED BY COLONEL SUNS

  5. ‘LOVE ME WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART’ PERFORMED BY DELILAH MONTAGU

  6. ‘HOME AGAIN’ PERFORMED BY FIRST AID KIT

  7. ‘THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE FOREST’ PERFORMED BY EMILIANA TORRINI AND THE COLORIST ORCHESTRA

  8. ‘HOME’ PERFORMED BY JOSEF SALVAT

  9. ‘ALL SMALL BEASTS SHOULD HAVE BOWS IN THEIR TAILS’ PERFORMED BY ELLINOORA

  10. ‘FREE SPIRIT’ PERFORMED BY JOSEF SALVAT

  11. ‘COUNTRY AIR’ PERFORMED BY SOAK

  12. ‘BY YOUR SIDE’ PERFORMED BY MELLAH

  13. ‘IN BLUE’ PERFORMED BY DECLAN MCKENNA

  14. ‘NORTHERN LIGHTS PERFORMED BY

  15. ‘READY NOW’ PERFORMED BY DODIE

  16. ‘THE AUTHOR’ PERFORMED BY ROOSBERG

The World of Moomin Valley- Book Review

The World of Moomin Valley is a lavish book looking at the weird and wonderful creatures created by Tove Jansson.
The book is beautifully presented with an embossed cover and gold detailing on the numerous characters from the world of the Moomins. Inside, the premium feel of the book continues with high grade paper stock and many reproductions of Jansson's illustrations, which are beautifully presented in exquisitely clean images.

The foreword by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, an essay which looks at the origins and meaning of Jansson's works, is an incisive and insightful look at the relevance and legacy of the Moomins. The book proper then starts.

The writing style by author, Philip Ardagh is informal and easy to read. The book starts by presenting biographies of the various inhabitants of Moomin Valley that most people, even casual acquaintances of the books and animations will already know, but some of the genealogy was surprising to me and it was great to get things clarified, especially in the very useful family tree diagram.

The second section looks at Jansson's childhood and examines her family life, including her early sketches and foray into political cartoons. The inspiration behind some of the Moomin characters are examined, including Jansson's lifelong female partner Tuulikki Pietiläs, supposedly the foundation for Tootiki. The biography is quite a brief section and for those looking for a more in-depth look at Jansson's life, may not be satisfying enough but in the context and style of this book, it fits in.

The World of Moomin Valley is a beautifully illustrated and easily accessible guide to all things Moomin. The book is a wonderful primer for people new to the Moomins or for the Moomin fan in your life. It is such a gorgeously packaged book with lots of information and images containers that it is a must buy.

I visited Moomin World in Finland in 2017 and loved it!

I visited Moomin World in Finland in 2017 and loved it!

Moomins and the Comet Live Re-score

I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release from the 80s animation, the exhibition at the Southbank Centre and my visit to Moomin World in Finland. 

Well I am excited to announce that one of the original composers for the 80s Moomins show, Graeme Miller, will perform a re-score live at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room. He will be joined by Jamie Telford and the pair will be using a kitchen table-full of small instruments (including a box of cornflakes), whilst the episode plays on the big screen

This is a rare chance for Moomin fans old and new to experience Film Polski’s charming herky-jerky animation with a live accompaniment. I purchased tickets for my wife and I and am extremely excited to see this score played out in front of us. The show is only an hour long but hopefully will be a joyous celebration of Tove Jansson's marvellous creations.

The recently released vinyl by Finders Keepers is brilliant!

The recently released vinyl by Finders Keepers is brilliant!

Our trip to Moomin World was amazing.

Our trip to Moomin World was amazing.

The Wonder of Moomin World

I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release and the exhibition at the Southbank Centre. What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being edgy with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life. 

When I discovered that there was a theme park called Moomin World, I knew that I had to go, even if it was in some obscure town in Finland. Luckily enough I have an understanding and some would say long- suffering wife who understands (read: puts up with) my flights of fancy and so we decided to visit Finland, catch up with an old friend (as in a real friend, not some homily for something more untangible like 'time' or friendship') and travel to Moomin World

When organising the trip I read the reviews and noticed that many had complained about the price and size of the park, so I had my reservations but I remained optimistic nonetheless and decided to visit with an open mind.  

So how was it? Well, in a nutshell... I loved it. This was not a foregone conclusion as many would assumes due to my alleged sunny 'glass half full' disposition and my Moomin fanboy-ism, but rather a viewpoint reached on balance of my personal experience and that of my 2 year old daughter, the primary audience for this theme park. 

The coastal walk to Moomin World is gorgeous.

To get to the park my wife, daughter and I walked around the coastal path from Naantali, a picturesque town with stunning views of the sea. To reach Moomin World you have to cross a long bridge over to Vaski island where the theme park is located. The bridge was beautiful and on either side elegant boats were moored, gently bobbing upon the wave in the glorious sunshine. As an introduction this sight certainly presented an air of wonder as many Moomin stories are centred around the sea and a love of nature.  

The bridge over to the island where Moomin World is situated adds to the excitement and atmosphere.

Once over the bridge we followed an old gravel path through the woods for about 50 metres and came to the entrance, a small wired gate with the Moomin World banner. We waited a few minutes and entered, paying our 28 Euro fee each, children are charged at the same rate so for our party it cost 84 Euros in total, that's a lot!  

Upon entering the park the thing to note were the quirky buildings and lots of shops, lots and lots of shops and stalls where you could win prizes, however at 4 Euros a pop I didn't play any of the games!  

My family and I headed straight to the highlight of the park, the Moomin House. We were near the front of the line and and due to our brisk walking pace were the first to meet Moomin Papa, who waved at us and kindly took a picture. Also walking around were Moomin Mama, Moomintroll, Little My and the Fillijonk. We got pictures with all of them and my daughter, who was initially frightened started to enjoy herself.  

A little while later the whole Moomin family,  Little My and the Fillijonk performed a little play and danced. My daughter joined in with the clapping and boogieing, unaware that they were speaking in a different language, Finnish.

The characters from the Moomins dance away merrily and my daughter danced away too!

The characters then walked around and met people, taking pictures and also performing an interactive performance piece where Stinky, the resident Moomin Valley bad boy, stole the Fillijonk's bag. My daughter was really invested and we followed the story around the area. She found Stinky fascinating yet scary too, every time I went close to take a picture with him she started to cry but if we moved away to another part of the park she insisted on seeing Stinky. Kids!  

We entered the Moomin house and saw the living room and bed rooms. The whole thing was wonderfully realised and as a fan of the comics, seemed quite accurate to the feel and look of the world. 

We then left the house and went on a little trek to see the bathing hut and Edvard the Booble. My daughter loved that and was really excited, calling him a dinosaur. He bobbed on the waves and seemed quite happy moving with the current.  

Moomin Papa's boat faces the sea.

Moomin Papa's boat was nearby and it was a climbing frame with a circular water channel built in that contained boats you could race. My daughter and I spent about 30 minutes here just racing them around and she was ecstatic, pouring out the water from the boats as they filled up on their journey around the circuit and floating them again.  

With the time approaching midday we went for lunch at Moomin Mama's Kitchen restaurant. At 3 Euros 50 the children's buffet was excellent value and included free drink refills. My daughter had mash potatoes, sauteed carrots, grilled chicken and meatballs and scoffed it all up. I'd read reviews which had slated the food but it was typical theme park fare, quick and easy food at a fair price.

After lunch we did the Fairy-tale Trail where we crept past the Witches and Alice's house, entered the labyrinth, adventured into the cave of the Hattifatteners, bravely went into the Groke's house and then climbed the mountain and walked across the suspension bridge. We met Thingummy and Bob and the people playing them were so cute and spoke a sweet nonsense language.  

My daughter loved the whole experience and didn't want to leave but at over 3 hours my wife and I felt like or was time to go as it was nap time. 

So was the money we paid for the 3 hours there worth it? Undoubtedly! If my daughter had her way we would have stayed all day. As an adult I can see why some people may not think it was worth while, people expecting a theme park with rides and fireworks will be disappointed but for those willing to engage with the performers and play in the different settings it is definitely worth your time. Some of the areas are looking a bit tired and could use a lick of paint but for somewhere that is susceptable to extremes in weather like Finland this is to be expected.  

Do yourself a favour, if you have a chance to visit Moomin World, do but don't necessarily go out of your way to visit Finland especially for it as it's great but not THAT great!

The Moomins- Cartoon TV Review

The Moomins are beloved characters created by the Finnish artist and storyteller, Tove Jansson. I am a huge fan of the creatures but I wasn't always this interested. I first came across the series as most children did through the weird felt stop motion show from the 80's. I've spoken before about how the creepy music and unearthly jerky felt character movement weirded me out at the time but with time I've come to appreciate the music, but what of the show?

Well being older and braver I finally decided to eat that frog and re-watch the series and give it a re-evaluation.

The first series of The Moomins is now on Amazon Prime and whilst it is the classic series from the 80's much has changed. From the start things seem off, the creepy introduction music has been replaced by a cheesy pop track and the well recognised title card has disappeared too.

The iconic title card is removed from the Amazon Prime series.

The complete soundtrack has been replaced but also the charming narration and voice-work by Richard Murdoch, replaced by a variety of voice actors who now play the different characters. The new narrator sounds bored, speaking v-e-r-y slowly and without much enthusiasm. All these may not sound like much but collectively it changes the whole feel of the thing and as a such the series loses it's otherworldly charm. In the original first episode, Thingummy and Bob, the scary character of the Groke makes an appearance and the music is suitably dramatic and unsettling. The foley work is impressive with a deep growling sound combining with the dark synthesizer sound. However in this version this is replaced with a more modern dramatic piece of music which although sinister doesn't compare to the original composition.

I persevered for a couple of more episodes but as a whole the feel of the show was 'off.' In the same way that Turner Classic Movies recoloured old films like 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Big Sleep' to appeal to a newer, younger audience, or for more contemporary take, George Lucas' constant meddling with the original Star Wars Trilogy led to worse films, this playing with the Moomin animation of old does no favours to what was a classic if slightly unnerving animation series. If you can watch the originals then please do but this version on Amazon Prime is a poor option.

Whimsical Moomin Exhibition at the Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre is currently hosting a Moomins exhibition as a part of its wider Nordic Matters season. The exhibition brings the well-loved characters to life by focusing on the characters and the life of their creator Tove Jansson

For those not in the know the Moomins are hippo-like creatures who exist in a weird and wonderful world and have many adventures and philosophise about the human condition, the world around them and the meaning of life but through beguilingly innocent stories. The characters include Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll, Snork Maiden, Little My but many others exist in Moominvalley, a fantastical wondrous place.

The characters found popularity outside Finland in the Fifties when the stories were printed as comic strips in newspapers. In the late 70s/ early 80s there was a stop-motion animation series which scared the heck out of me, and a popular 90s animated TV show that brought the characters worldwide acclaim, and even led to the creation of a theme park in Finland, which my wife, daughter and I will be visiting in the summer.

Over the course of the hour long guided tour I was transported to snowy woods in the night with a full moon and the stars providing the only light whilst we looked for the Groke. I sat in a dark gloomy cave to escape the devastation of the comet. We sat in a tent around a campfire and listened to the crackling of the logs. The guide had said we needed to bring out the inner child and I readily complied. Being a guided tour there were only 12 people including 3 children and this intimacy made the whole experience rather special.
Walking through the various locales you could understand the influence that living in such wondrous landscapes would have had upon the author. The books frequently talk about how the best things in life are free and how a beautiful world benefits everyone.

The exhibition had more than 40 original drawings by Jansson, her paintbrushes and the first Moomin dolls, which were all wonderful to see up so close but the absolute highlight for me was the recreation of the studio in Finland where Tove Jansson wrote and illustrated her comics.

I've been to many exhibitions and shows and this was one of the best in that it was interactive, immersive and presented the subject matter in a fun and relaxed way.

So overall, was the exhibition worth it? For the hour long tour and guided talk into this singular creator- yes it was. The exhibition runs until 23rd April so please do give it a look if its your kind of thing.

Comix Creatrix: House of Illustration Exhibition

Whilst in London for the London Anime and Gaming Con 2016 I popped into Kings Cross and headed for the Comix Creatrix exhibition currently being held at the House of Illustration. I've mentioned this exhibition before and was excited to see females being given the credit for their contribution to the comic industry. The exhibition is a small one but covers 100 female artists including Kate Beaton, Posy Simmonds and Audrey Niffenegger. The exhibition is in roughly chronological order and goes through the role that women played in the art form. I thought I knew quite a lot about comics but this exhibition really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues that women had to fight through to be an active and appreciated part of this counter-culture art form.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the original pencil drawings of the Moomins from the first set of strips created by Tove Jansson in 1958. As a big Moomin fan seeing this really warmed my heart and filled me with joy.
The exhibition runs until 15th May and is well worth a visit. Some of the images on display were of a sexual nature so if you are thinking of taking children I'd recommend you do a quick scan beforehand.