‘Ernest and Celestine’ Sequel Highlights the Visual Glory of French 2D

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A cheering crowd at France’s Annecy Festival got a sneak peek at the hugely anticipated sequel to French family hit “Ernest and Célestine” on Thursday.

It was not disappointed-

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“Ernest and Célestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” is slated for release in France in December, nearly a decade after the multi-prized original, which scored an Academy Award nomination alongside 2014 winner “Frozen.”

The 22-minute long preview screening in Annecy was followed by a short concert by the film’s composer, Vincent Courtois, playing the cello, and one of his band members on the clarinet.

“The story revolves a lot around music,” co-director Julien Chheng (“The King and the Beaver”, “Ernest and Célestine, The Collection”) told Variety. “While making the film, we would wait for his demo to animate our characters. We wanted to be true to the Ernest and Celestine style which is very subtle: We didn’t want to use music to enhance emotions but rather allow the characters and the scenes to convey the emotion.”

The film turns on Ernest and Célestine who travel back to Ernest’s country, Gibberitia, to fix his broken violin. This exotic land used to be home to the best musicians on earth, but upon arrival, they discover that all forms of music have been banned there.

Along with their friends and a mysterious masked outlaw, Ernest and Célestine try their best to bring music and happiness back to the land of bears.

Speaking to Variety, co-director Jean-Christophe Roger (“Ernest and Célestine, The Collection”, “Lassie”) said the film is meant to convey a message on the fight for freedom, as Ernest is forced to face his overbearing father, who banned music in Gibberitia after Ernest refused to follow the family tradition and become a judge, preferring to devote his life to music.

But this took an added meaning after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the team chose to use a blue tit, whose plumage has the same yellow and blue colors as the Ukrainian flag, to symbolize freedom.

“We held a screening with the producing team just after war broke out and it was really strange, there was this silence in the room: We were struck by the fact that the film was reflecting what is happening in Ukraine, and the choice of keeping the [blue and yellow] colors gave extra meaning to the story which we hadn’t anticipated,” said Chheng.

Based on the characters of Belgian author Gabrielle Vincent’s beloved children’s books, this sequel is an original story by Agnès Bidaud and veteran French animation producer Didier Brunner (“Ernest et Celestine”, “The Triplets of Belleville”), who joked on stage when festival director Mickaël Marin asked him why it had taken him so long to make it, that “the author didn’t want us to adapt it so we waited for her to die.”

Indeed, Brunner bought the rights to Vincent’s best-selling books in 2007, several years after her death, and went on to produce the multi-awarded cinema adaptation that snagged Oscar recognition.

Popular French actor Lambert Wilson is back as the voice of Ernest, with Pauline Brunner reprising her role as Célestine. There is no confirmation so far about an English version – the original 2012 movie was voiced by an A-list cast including Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy and Lauren Bacall.

Penned by Sebastien Regnaud (“Little Vampire”, “Stinky Dog”) and “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir” writers Guillaume Mautalent and Sebastien Oursel, “Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” is produced by Folivari in Paris and Stephan Roelants’ Luxembourg-based Melusine Productions (“Wolfwakers”), in co-production with Studiocanal, France 3 Cinéma and Les Armateurs.

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