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First stop: Finland for Picard’s Moomins on the Riviera


- Xavier Picard’s hand-drawn animation feature based on Finnish author Tove Jansson’s comic strips will have its world premiere on 10 October

First stop: Finland for Picard’s Moomins on the Riviera
Moomins on the Riviera by Xavier Picard (© Handle Productions Oy, Pictak Cie)

Sixty years ago (September 1954), when Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson launched the Moomin on the Riviera comic strip, little did she know it would reach 20 million daily readers in more than 40 countries for 20 years. Celebrating her 100th birthday, French director Xavier Picard’s €4 million, hand-drawn 2D adaptation (also adding an ‘s’ onto the end) will be premiered on 10 October in Finnish theatres, courtesy of Nordisk Film.

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Finnish producer-director Hanna Hemilä and Picard began to develop the visual style for their Moomin project in 2010, closely following Janson’s own drawings; the following year, they got the green light from the Janson family. “Twenty years ago, my four-year-old daughter asked me: ‘Why don’t you make a film about the Moomins?’. Back then, I had never imagined that it would happen and that she (Beata Harju) would be one of the screenwriters,” Hemilä recalled.

“The Moomin characters celebrate freedom, optimism, cross-cultural understanding and tolerance – our Moomins on the Riviera [+see also:
film profile
is made for children and for the child that exists in each adult,” declared Picard, the French writer-director-producer, who has put his name to more than 300 hours of animation. “My ambition has been to extend Janson’s work without betraying it, and keeping in mind what she said: ‘Live in peace, plant potatoes and dream.’”

Picard’s Paris-based Pictak Studio developed the visuals, while the Sandman Studio in China worked on the hand-made animation – 120,000 drawings. The scripts were written in Finland, France and the UK, the music composed in Finland and France, and the sound design was Finnish. Picard directed and co-produced for Pictak, and Hemilä co-wrote, co-directed and produced for Handle Productions. 

Moomins on the Riviera has a large audience potential – in Finland it reaches all ages, in Europe the target is mainly children with their families, but in Japan, for instance, the Moomins have a strong following among 25- to 35-year-old women,” explained Hemilä. So far, the 77-minute feature is ready with Finnish, Swedish, French and English dialogues, but more will follow as Paris-based Indie Sales signs contracts worldwide.

In the film, Moomin “is torn between the simple life he feels comfortable with and the luxurious movie-star lifestyle his beloved Snorkmaiden yearns to have”. Together with Little My, they set sail for the Riviera in search of new adventures, but for the very first time, their unity is threatened. The screenwriter team included Leslie Stewart, Annina Enckell and Harju, while the composers were Jean de Aguiar, Panu Aaltio, Timo Lassy, Milla Viljamaa and Anna-Karin Korhonen.

After the world premiere in Finland, Moomins on the Riviera will have its first international screening at the BFI London Film Festival (on 11 and 18 October) and will continue to France’s La Roche-Sur-Yon International Film Festival (screening on 19 October). It will be released in France on 13 February 2015, via Gebeka Films

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