Ernest & Celestine TIFF Interview

Posted 11 years ago by myetvmedia

Ernest and Celestine is a delightful animated film directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, with the voices of Lambert Wilson and Dominique Maurin and soundtrack by jazz cellist Vincent Courtois. The Ernest and Celestine storybook series was created by late Belgium writer-illustrator Gabrielle Vincent in the early 1980s, and currently includes over two-dozen volumes, many of which have been translated into English. The books are illustrated with a simple naturalistic style that recalls the original Winnie-the-Pooh books of A.A. Milne.

In the animated genre, Ernest & Celestine is one of the best dramas recently produced in France. To complete the risky adventure of the book adaptation, producer Didier Brunner (Michel Ocelot‘s Kirikou The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet) gave “carte blanche” to a new but gifted filmmaker Benjamin RennerVincent Patar and Stephane Aubier were also brought on to provide guidance the project based on their experience as directors of the stop-motion toon “A Town Called Panic”.


The animators established two parallel worlds by making use of richly detailed backgrounds. The above ground world is where bears live very much like humans would. Below the earth, mice dwell in a complex subterranean village. They making occasional escapades in the night to the Bear’s world to steal provisions from the bears, particularly teeth left under pillows by young cubs. These teeth are very vital to their survival and the mice have developed sophisticated dentistry techniques to replace broken incisors. Baby bear teeth are the most prized denture material.


Ernest the bear is a pianist, greedy and a little uncouth who lives in the upper world. Celestine is a playful little mouse who dwells in the subterranean world. Their friendship is complicated as both worlds have the same kind of problematic dealings as cats and mice. Nevertheless the scenario is so well crafted by Daniel Pennac that it is easy to keeps things on a believable plane (for a fairytale), and it’s easy enough to believe in the duo true friendship when they eventually cross paths and run away together to Ernest’s remote cabin. This quickly sets off a furor in their respective communities, and as judges and police forces crack down on the forbidden pair, Ernestand Celestine gradually becomes a cautionary fable where friendship tries to stand the test of bigotry and intolerance.

Stepping up to make his first feature-length animation after the Cesar-nominated shortA Mouse’s TaleRenner brings Vincent’s colorful storybook universe to life with a number of clever set-pieces and decors. Children and adults alike will be enchanted by this delightful French animated feature (with English subtitles).

-Christophe Chanel

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