Yesterday, Sept. 27, The Milwaukee Film Fest kicked off it’s Rated K for Kids program with “Ernest & Celestine.” This Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of a bear named Ernest and a mouse named Celestine and how their unconventional friendship disturbs their respective communities. Adorable in both the style and story, “Ernest & Celestine” uses simplistic graphics to send a very important message to children.
“Ernest & Celestine,” like so many children’s movies, delivers an important lesson under sugar-flavored cartoon coating. Whether two parent bears are teaching their baby bear the importance of brushing teeth and the magical tooth mouse, or Celestine exhibits great care and kindness towards someone her society has taught her to hate, this film is full of life lessons.
The most important of the lessons taught in “Ernest & Celestine” are those of friendship and prejudice. While some children watching the film may not understand the meaning of the word prejudice, the “bears above, mice below” standard by which the characters of the film live certainly drill the idea of prejudice and the importance of counteracting it into the minds of young viewers.
The lesson of friendship is really many lessons that can apply to any relationship. Kids watch Ernest and Celestine’s friendship develop and grow into a very healthy relationship to set as a standard. They come to care for each other, help each other when they’re in need, and encourage each other to grow within their set of skills.
Ernest and Celestine’s skills just so happen to be related and play off each other very well: art and music. In fact, the entire film is a collision of art and music. The trailer alone works as a small piece of art as the film utilizes sketched scenery rather than computer animation or more advanced techniques. In many cases, we see the beginning of a sketch as it comes to life, either through the filmmaker’s storytelling or Celestine’s painting practice.
“Ernest & Celestine” truly is a work of art come to life, and while this may be reminiscent of “The Snowman” (1982) or “Fantasia” (1940), and the plot might draw parallels with “The Fox and the Hound” (1981) or even “Romeo & Juliet”, this film is a unique, imaginative one that stands apart. It is an adorable, elegant, yet simple film that draws you in from the very beginning and keeps you hooked until the very end.
“Ernest & Celestine” screens at The Milwaukee Film Festival again at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill on Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. and again at The Times Cinema on Oct. 5 at 11:15 a.m. Tickets are available online or at The Milwaukee Film Festival Box Office.