Charming animated sequel celebrates friendship, music, and individuality while continuing the first film’s anti-authoritarian attitude
Ernest and Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia hits Blu-ray January 16 from GKIDS & Shout! Studios.
It’s taken about a decade, but a sequel has arrived to continue the charming tale of the animated film Ernest & Célestine. In truth, a French-language television show has occupied some of the meantime, but as that series hasn’t made its way stateside, this is for most American viewers our first return to the series.
The first film chronicled the clash of worlds and unlikely friendship between an brave, cheery mouse and a grumpy, perpetually hungry bear who works as a street musician. The film was animated in a painterly, watercolor style that was impressively similar to a story book (which is the source material for this series), and a joy to watch.
A tragedy strikes when Ernest’s prized violin (a “Stradibearius”, natch) is broken. The only person (bear) who can fix it, Ernest laments, is Octavius, the old violin master who crafted it – and who lives in the home country Ernest left behind: Gibbertia.
Eager to fix his beloved instrument, Célestine urges that they make the trip, but Ernest is adamant in his refusal and uncharacteristically tight-lipped about his reasons for not wanting to go home. It’s only when Célestine sets out on the arduous trek by herself that Ernest goes after her, and the pair end up in his own hometown – where things are even worse than he remembers.
On the surface, Gibberitia (which is vaguely Russian; its name seems to be a portmaneau of “gibberish” and “Russia”), seems a beautiful and quaint place. But it’s a strange country where nothing makes sense – unnecessary and absurd laws dictate and frustrate its people, dismissively explained by the national motto: “That’s just how it is”. Even stop lights and traffic signs arbitrarily confuse and overdirect. Sons and daughters may only carry on with the same occupations as their parents. Worst of all, Ernest’s father is the country’s top judge, and arguably one of the main authors of this brave new world.
It’s quickly evident why Ernest left and never wanted to return, and things are even worse now – it’s a police state all music consisting of more than a single note has been outlawed (by the “Ernestov Law”, we learn). If the old violin-master is still around, he’s in hiding, wanted for his “crimes”.
But there’s a silver lining, and not all is lost. Ernest’s young sister Mila is a precocious young thing who’s glad of his return, and there are rumblings of a “musical resistance” led by a masked revolutionary known only as “Mifasol” (as in Do, Re, Mifasol). Ernest and Célestine’s best hope of finding Octavius and is to find and join the rebellion.
Thematically, the tale continues with the first film’s mild but very present anti-authoritarian streak (again with plenty of running from the police, a rather subversive hallmark for a kids’ franchise), now focusing on an anti-fascist fable. Contrasting the fascism, the importance of music – both as art and as a tool of revolution – is also a prominent theme.
But the film also grapples with other ideas – it’s now evident that Ernest is an immigrant. From a western European context, he’s an Eastern European who panhandles – it’s not a stretch to realize he represents a group that has historically experienced enmity and racism. And in his return home, Ernest is not only facing his past that he ran away from, but grappling with his difficult feelings of resentment to his homeland and his divorced parents, especially his father.
One thing that viewers may notice right away when watching the English-language version of the film is that the cast has changed. While Lambert Wilson and Pauline Brunner return in the French audio, the English language cast is handled much differently. The first film had an incredible (and probably expensive) all-star cast of celebrity talent not only led by Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Foy as Ernest and Célestine, but packed with many familiar stars like Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, Nick Offerman, Jeffrey Wright, and William H. Macy. Trip to Gibbertia does feature a terrific voice cast, but in a complete reversal of the prior film, it’s all traditional and relatively unknown voice actors.
Ernest and Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia hits Blu-ray January 16 from GKIDS & Shout! Studios. The Blu-ray follows GKIDS’ usual design motif. My copy came with a glossy slipcover.
Special Features and Extras
All extras are in French with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.
- Making Of – Naturally focused on the film’s genesis and animation but also covers the French voice work, music, and conceptual development of Gibberitia.
- Interview with the Directors (12:16) – Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng
- Interview with the Cast (11:16) – Lambert Wilson and Pauline Brunner
- Interview with Producer Didier Brunner (10:45)
- How to Draw Ernest and Célestine (1:48) – Jean Cristophe hosts in English, drawing up a quick sketch of the characters and sharing his thoughts on their personalities.
- Trailers – Original French Trailer (1:41) and English Dub Trailer (1:41)
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and online imaging.