For the past several years, the Oscars hand out nominations to a handful of animated films and while Pixar and DreamWorks tend to be shoe-ins for nominations, there are also a few films that tend to sneak in, despite not being big blockbusters. Ernest & Celestine is just one of those films. This French feature, based on a series of children’s books, had a limited release in America, but was fitted with an English-language track, with many stars lending their voices. It was all quite worth it. Now the film is available on Blu-ray for all to check out.
This is a film about an unlikely friendship between a young mouse and a bear. Mice are taught that bears are evil by way of scary stories about the outside world, but one of these Mice, Celestine (voiced by Mackenzie Foy), is doubtful of how truthful these stories are. This is put to the test, as Celestine travels above ground in an attempt to do her rodent duty, which is to collect lost teeth from under bear cubs’ pillows (yup). A series of events leads to Celestine being discovered by Ernest (Forest Whitaker), a starving and reclusive bear, but rather than eating Celestine, the two form a friendship. Of course, this is not a friendship that everyone else approves of.
This film comes from directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar, directors of the stop-motion film A Town Called Panic, which is full of joy and Ernest & Celestine has a lot of that same energy now in the form of a wonderful, traditionally animated feature. While the subject matter actually skews a bit darker (it is PG for ‘some scary images’), the weirdness remains and comes through in very likable ways. Even if you are not familiar with A Town Called Panic, this is a film that easily delivers on having enjoyable characters interact, say, and do things that build up the world of this film.
Given that this concept comes from a series of children’s books, I can see why the animation style is necessary, but I also just really love the simplicity in these hand drawn creations. It works well in keeping the story fairly focused on what is happening on screen, without too much background noise (appropriate for this kind of film), but also works to keep the themes motifs alive as well. This is a story that has a weird angle involving dental-based employment, but it really stands as a film about friendship and standing up to prejudices, given the inter-species interaction at play.
I really did not know what to expect with this film, beyond the assumption that it would likely be delightful, and it is. It is also animated in an approachable way to make this world feel traditional, yet inviting. There is a good cast here and the film has a nice way of balancing its oddities with elements that make it quite likable and appealing in ways that stray from the norm.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Clarity/Detail: The traditional animation does not make for much more to be explored on Blu-ray, but the disc does a fine job of bringing out all of the various details that go into animating a film such as this. What it may lack in big CGI visuals, it makes up for in a nicely detailed minimalist presentation.
Depth: The different background designs make for a film that can occasionally fit in a variety of characters and background elements, adding a level of depth, but only so much, given the simplistic animation design of the film.
Black Levels: The soft nature of the film takes away from the deepness of the black levels, especially given how much white there is to see in this film.
Color Reproduction: Again, the soft look and pastel-like use of color does not lead to the sharpest display of color imagery, but the Blu-ray does a fine job of presenting
Flesh Tones: N/A
Noise/Artifacts: None to be found.
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Dynamics: Both tracks do a fine job of expressing what is offered by the actors involved, mixed with the various sound elements to make for a fine job of presenting these lossless audio tracks.
Low Frequency Extension: There are a couple scenes that bring a bit of bass to the proceedings, but nothing earth shattering in any sense.
Surround Sound Presentation: The range on these Blu-ray tracks is fairly limited, but a decent job is done to blend the score, dialogue, and other elements in a very listenable way.
Dialogue Reproduction: Always clear, regardless of accents at play.
Along with having the option of listening to the original audio track, which is always nice, a nice collection of extras are supplied, giving the viewer plenty of information regarding the creation and story behind this film.
- The Making of Ernest & Celestine – At nearly an hour, this is a great in-depth look at the making of the film.
- Feature-Length Animatic – These are cool additions for the huge fans that love seeing the intended ideas in action.
- Interview with Director Benjamin Renner – A decent conversation overall.
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD Copy of the Film
Along with The Wind Rises, it was nice to see these foreign animated features get the recognition they deserve, during awards season, this past year. Ernest & Celestine is a delightful change in pace for what it has to offer and hearing it in French or in English makes no difference, because the film is so pleasing to watch. The video and audio presentation is pretty solid overall, with a nice batch of extras to accompany the release. Animation fans should check out this film, as it is well worth watching.