Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin stories were a celebration of tolerance, curiosity and the power of imagination. This Easter weekend a new animated Moomin series premieres on Sky One and Sky Kids. The opening episodes begin a series of 13 22-minute episodes.
HeyUGuys attended a preview screening of episodes 1 and 10 and a Q&A with co-creator/director Steve Box, actress Akiya Henry (who voices Snorkmaiden) and Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson, the creative director of Moomin Characters Ltd.
Many of our readers will have fond memories of Moomintroll, Little My and Snufkin. After a successful crowdfunding campaign helped support its return, Sky and Gutsy Animations are hoping Moominvalley will find a place in your hearts again and enchant a new generation of viewers.
The 2019 incarnation is a weird and wonderful mix of old and new as the “I’m whacky, me!” gabble of IT Crowd stars mingles with the subtler, gentler delivery of lines from genuine movie stars. And heartfelt messages about friendship and acceptance are muddied with clumsy comedy. It feels like a funky scarf knitted by one too many hands. Bits keep unravelling but it has a certain charm.
Moominvalley’s vocal cast is packed with crowd-pleasing names and a host of pleasing guest stars. Cast regulars are Taron Egerton (Moomintroll), Rosamund Pike (Moominmamma), Matt Berry (Moominpappa), Bel Powley (Little My), Warwick Davis (Sniff), Joe Wilkinson (Hemulen-Male), Kate Winslet (Mrs Fillyjonk), and Jennifer Saunders (Mymble).
Featured guests include Alison Steadman (Emma the Stage Rat), Will Self (The Muskrat), Richard Ayoade (The Ghost) Akiya Henry (Snorkmaiden), Edvin Endre (Snufkin), Mayumi Kawai (Ninny), Matt Lucas (Teety-Woo), Katie Leung (Too-Ticky), Rebecca Root (Misabel), Susie Brann (Hemulen -Female), and Joe Wilkinson (Hemulen-Male).
Steve Box – who won an Oscar for his work on Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – was passionate about Moominvalley’s artful blend of 2D and 3D animation techniques. And Ms Jansson echoed his excitement. Saying the painterly settings reflected her aunt’s love for colour.
Steve emphasised the importance of imperfections. And a focus on keeping a picture book quality to the state of the art animation while making the most of the cinematic scale CG affords. 30 years have passed since the last Moomins series and Sophia felt a new series was an opportunity to keep Tove’s stories alive.
Mr Box told HeyUGuys he and his team had read Moomin books and comics and totally immersed themselves in research material to get a feel for each character. They then created an unrealistic wishlist of voices and were astonished when almost the entire wishlist said yes.
He was particularly excited about Matt Berry’s distinctive take on Moominpappa. And Akiya laughingly revealed that whenever she was in the voice booth as Snorkmaiden, Steve would enthusiastically leap inside to play all the supporting roles. Complete with accents!
Though episode 1 achieves little more than establishing the who and where for newcomers, the charming ghost story of episode 10 shows real potential. Despite Richard Ayoade’s scenery chewing. Finnish musicians Pekka Kuusisto and Samuli Kosminen have written a score which immerses you in Tove Jansson’s enchanting world and Steve Box has taken the first steps towards appropriately populating it.
Moominvalley begins at 5.30pm Good Friday on Sky One, Sky Kids and NOW TV