Very simple, yet undeniably charming, Ernest and Celestine is the story of two animals that are supposed to be enemies being friends. Based on a Belgian series of books by Gabrielle Vincent, the film opened in Europe at the end of 2012, but didn’t arrive in the United States until a year later; first in its original form and soon with an English-dubbed version. Most, me included hadn’t heard of the film until it was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
I have reviewed the English-dubbed version, but the Blu-ray does include the original French audio track and English subtitles.
Celestine (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) is a young mouse living in an orphanage below ground where the mice have a complex, ordered society. When we first meet her, Celestine is painting a sweet picture of herself with a bear. However, the aged lady mouse (Lauren Bacall) who watches over the youngsters will have none of her “friendly bear” nonsense. She frightens the kids with tales of the vicious, mouse eating bears that live above ground.
Above ground, Ernest the Bear (Forest Whitaker) heads to town, prepared to perform as a one bear band, in a bid to earn money for food. The bear police quickly take away his instruments, leaving Ernest scrounging for scraps. Later that night, Celestine and some of the other mice go above ground to grab discarded bear teeth (which can be filed down and used as replacement mouse incisors). Though Celestine loves to draw, she is expected to be a dentist, and these trips are part of her training. Nearly caught trying to make a tooth grab; Celestine falls asleep in a trash can. Ernest finds her the next morning. Before he devours the scared mouse, she helps him break into the storage area of a candy shop. Later, Ernest helps Celestine break into a local dental shop to nab a bag of teeth. It’s no long before Ernest and Celestine are on the run from the bear and mouse police.
Touching on themes of friendship, acceptance and judgment, we watch as the bear and mouse thrive in each other’s company. Finally free to be themselves, Celestine begins to develop her art skills and Ernest works on his shares his love for music; one rooting the other on. The third act introduces a cockeyed sense of justice regarding their friendship, with the two having been put on trial for essentially having the gall to care about each other with no strings attached.
Ernest and Celestine are a great team. A free spirit, Celestine is brave and intelligent; she not afraid to follow her heart. Ernest is funny, a bit awkward, and wears his heart on his sleeve. The animation is modest but effective, employing watercolors to bring this Ernest and Celestine’s personalities to life, and fill in the world around them. There’s a real storybook quality to the entire look of the film that just adds to its appeal. Ernest and Celestine may be geared toward children, but it contains a message that should ring true for adults as well.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Cinedigm and G Kids 1080p transfer shows off the minimalistic, hand drawn animation rather well. The decidedly neutral palette favors beiges, browns, and light pastels. The line detail is also not particularly precise. Given that, the image exhibits no issues, accurately reproducing the delicate, soft look of the film. Colors look accurate and well saturated throughout. Contrast is solid and compression artifacts are a no show.
Both the original French language track as well as an English dub is presented via lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Best described as subtle but appropriate, it provides restrained immersion that fits with the overall feel of the film. The delightful score by Vincent Courtois flows nicely through the surrounds. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
English subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- The Making of Ernest and Celestine (HD, 51:59) An in depth, informative piece about the making of the film from the process of adapting the books, to the animation, the casting, and everything in between. Worth watching for fans of the film.
- Feature Length Animatic (HD, 1:24:17)
- Interview with Director Benjamin Renner (HD, 13:58) The director discusses his style, goals for the film, and more. In English.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:21)
- DVD of the film.