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.