ERNEST & CELESTINE – a French-Belgian Animated Film Based on the Celebrated Children’s Books

Ernest & Celestine releases domestically on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 17 from GKIDS and Cinedigm Entertainment.

Ernest & Celestine is a French-Belgian traditionally animated film based on a series of children’s books, and let me tell you — is a stunningly beautiful and endearing marvel. The film is charmingly animated with a watercolor-like aesthetic, including real watercolors created on paper for the backgrounds. It really looks like the pages of a storybook, come to life.

The tale takes place in a society populated by anthropomorphic bears and mice. Bears populate the world more or less like people, while mice live in subterranean cities below and only venture out to forage and gather supplies. The two civilizations generally don’t get along, and as we find early on, the “Big Bad Bear” is the bogeyman used to scare young mice like Celestine.

Celestine is a girl whose natural curiosity and artistic inclinations are ignored by an unsympathetic hustle-bustle world where she is merely one of many orphans sharing a dank dormitory. She collects bears’ teeth — a valuable commodity in the mouse world — as part of her government-appointed apprenticeship to dentistry.

Meanwhile, Ernest is a hungry bear who panhandles as a one-man-band for a mere bite to eat. The pair meet under the usual antagonistic mouse-vs-bear circumstances, but good sense wins out and Celestine shows Ernest a candy shop where he can get something to eat — he promptly robs it — and then breaks him out when he’s apprehended for the crime. To even up his debt, Ernest uses his thievery skills to steal a massive haul of bears’ teeth from a dental shop for Celestine. (The candy shop owner and dentist are actually a married couple, and keep getting cleaned out by Ernest in an amusing running gag). Sleepy from his haul, Ernest dozes off in mouse-town and accidentally causes a widespread panic among its residents.

As a result, the pair find themselves on the lam, hiding from both the mouse and bear communities. They hole up in Ernest’s remote cabin and an endearing friendship blossoms, which goes on to define the course of the film. It’s a story full to the brim with sweetness and love, and when the cops finally close in on their location, it’ll be up to their strong and unorthodox friendship to win the day.

This world definitely cheats scale between the bears and mice constantly to make the mechanics work (generally they’re somewhat naturally proportioned, other times the mice are far larger — and somehow we’re supposed to believe their teeth are the same size), but that’s the magic of animation. There’s really only one problem with this film in my view, and only applies as far as young children are concerned: a sense of moral relativism. This isn’t a problem on its own — I love a good heist or antihero film. But since this tale is aimed at young audiences, I’ll go into a bit more detail. Ernest and Celestine go into hiding to evade the police after their robberies. It’s natural to side with them, of course, but the film never addresses that they did anything wrong by robbing two stores. When they are eventually caught and tried, they insist that the reason they’re on trial is that they are a mouse and bear. They’re willfully blind to their actual crimes. However, there’s a powerful lesson in their defense as well — both are selfless, each not caring what happens to them, but fully defending their friend. Most viewers will understand the good from bad, but parents of younger kids may want to make sure the right messages come across.


Ernest & Celestine comes to Blu-Ray in a DVD combo pack from Cinedigm Entertainment and internationally-minded GKIDS. My copy included a very nice looking slipcase with glossy print on a matte surface.

The disc has both French or English audio tracks. Normally I’m all about watching film in the original language but for English speakers the dubbed track is the clear winner here. Obviously it’ll be the go-to version for kids, but even from my adult perspective it’s definitely the favorable way to watch. The translation is clear and natural, and better illustrates some of the nuances that would be lost in a foreign tongue, such as couple scenes in which characters with dental problems mumble in different degrees of unintelligibility (though the subtitles do translate these instances pretty well from the French). The English voice cast features Forest Whitaker as Ernest, child actress Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring) as Celestine, and supporting roles by some of the best in the business, including William H. Macy, Paul Giamatti, Lauren Bacall, and real-life couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as the married store-owners. The French version stars Lambert Wilson (The Merovingian from the Matrix series), in the role of Ernest.

In a very nice attention to detail, the disc includes English translated subtitles as well as dubtitles to match the English audio.

The film is rated PG “for some scary moments” but as I stated earlier, parents may be more concerned with the fact that the protagonists commit a couple of robberies which go unanswered.

Special Features

The Making Of Ernest & Celestine (51:59)
A pretty comprehensive French-language featurette that goes into every aspect of the film’s creation and production, most interestingly the animation processes.

Interview with Co-Director Benjamin Renner (13:58)
This English-language interview focuses on how the project originally came together.

Feature Length Animatic (84:17)
This Blu-Ray exclusive will definitely be welcomed by anyone with an academic interest in animation or storyboarding, but is probably for enthusiasts only.

Theatrical Trailer (2:21)

“More animation from GKIDS”
Additional trailers for A Cat In Paris, The Secret Of The Kells, Tales Of The Night, From Up On Poppy Hill, and Approved For Adoption.

Most of the extras also appear on the DVD.

Ernest & Celestine is a thematically and visually rich story that will enrapture kids with its fun characters and adults with its wit and charm. Highly recommended.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
Ernest & Celestine — [Blu-Ray] | [DVD]

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