Maya The Bee


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Maya The Bee
"Altogether the best exploration of Australian class conflicts through the medium of animated insects that you're likely to see this year."

Maya the Bee was first created in 1926. She's huge in German speaking countries, where adults share nostalgic memories of her just as children fall in love with her today. This will be most English-speaking audiences' first encounter with her, but a partnership between German and Australian filmmakers has done an excellent job of bridging the culture gap and making her fresh and relevant to young audiences. A fine voice performance by forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road star Coco Jack Gillies really brings the little bee to life.

The story begins with Maya hatching and trying to find her role in the hive. It's run with taut industrial efficiency and she's a toddler - you can guess how that turns out. As she explores and generally causes chaos, Maya accidentally uncovers a plot by scheming advisor Buzzlina (Jacki Weaver) to steal the royal jelly, thereby ousting the kindly old queen (Miriam Margolyes) and starting a war by blaming the theft on the hornets whom generations of little bees have been taught to fear. Exiled from the hive, Maya must find her way across the beautiful but dangerous meadow in order to save the day. Fortunately, she's a brave little thing, and she has a talent for making friends.

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Aimed primarily at four to eight-year-olds, the film is carefully paced to help them stay focused. Regular doses of excitement and awe keep the mood upbeat and, although there are a few sad and scary scenes, they don't last long enough to trigger lasting distress. There are lots of endearing characters, including a bold little hornet boy (who has been taught to fear bees), bumbling army ants and a grown-up, protective grasshopper. There are also poo jokes to appeal to children's natural delight in the disgusting, and brief musical numbers they'll be singing for days.

Alongside this, there's a smattering of clever film references and joke for adults, ensuring they don't get bored. With its big bogan hornets and prim, allegedly soul-sucking bees, it's altogether the best exploration of Australian class conflicts through the medium of animated insects that you're likely to see this year. The animation is beautiful, inventive creature design blended well with the old-fashioned styling of more established elements. Many parents will also be pleased to be able to take their kids to a film with a strong girl character in the lead. Though Maya is very young and therefore vulnerable, she doesn't need much rescuing and she always finds the courage to face up to a challenge.

Whether or not they've seen Maya on TV, small kids will love this film and want to watch it again and again.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2015
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Maya The Bee  packshot
When the royal jelly is stolen, a brave little bee must travel across the corn poppy meadow to prove the hornets innocent and end a war.
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Director: Alexs Stadermann

Writer: Fin Edquist, Marcus Sauermann, translated by Martin Quaden

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Noah Taylor, Jacki Weaver

Year: 2014

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Australia, Germany


Glasgow 2015

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