Moomin – The Complete Series One

Moomin – The Complete Series One


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Originally published in Swedish in Finland, Tove Jansson's much loved Moomin novels and comic books have undergone many adaptations for television. One of the two best known was the Polish-made 1979-82 puppet series The Moomins, in whose production Jansson was herself personally involved, and which accordingly adhered closely to her original, at times rather dark, vision.

The second was this Japanese-made cartoon series which - despite being produced and having its script supervised by Jansson's brother and long-time collaborator Lars - was criticised by Jansson's die-hard fans as too sanitised, and was repudiated by Jansson herself, who was said to have declared: "This is not the Moomins".

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Still, no matter what liberties my have been taken with Jansson's legacy, evidently none of this did the TV show itself any harm. On the contrary, it proved so popular internationally that there quickly followed a second series and also the feature-length Comet In Moominland (1992), all made by the same core Japanese team.

The series even sparked a 'Moomin boom', ensuring the ubiquity of expensive Moomin merchandise throughout the Nineties, giving rise to a theme park in Finland (Moomin World) dedicated to all things Janssonian, but also sending a whole new generation of Moomin devotees back to the original books. He may look like a hippopotamus, but the show's hero Moomintroll has also turned out to be something of a cash cow.

Do not be deceived by this double-disc's claim to be the "the complete series one". In fact, it comprises only the first 14 of a staggering 78 episodes that made up the first Japanese series (all able to be tracked down, at least by the more enthusiastic online hunters, in English dubs - although the 26 episodes that make up the second series have never been dubbed). At first this might not bother the collection's target audience of four- to ten-year-olds, who will be too busy being enchanted by the Moomins, mortified by Little My, annoyed by Stinky, freaked out by the Hattifatteners and terrified by the Groke, to care about much else – but when it is all over, they will most likely be wanting to see more. In its gentle, meandering way, this show can be highly addictive to the pre-tweenie market.

In the middle of the Moominvalley is the Moominhouse, where young Moomintroll lives with his Moominmama, his Moominpapa, and any number of friends, guests and hangers-on. For with their kindly consideration, their liberal permissiveness, their love of nature and their house open to all strangers, the Moomins, though "eccentric", are a model of hospitality and helpfulness, known for their generosity by the entire community.

Regular visitors include Moomin's best friend Snufkin, his admirer Snork Maiden, cowardly Sniff and bossy Little My (the Lucy van Pelt of Moomin Valley) – and we also meet Little My's more reserved sister Mymble, the nervously larcenous Thingumy and Bob, not-so-wise old Hemulen, Snork Maiden's inventive brother Snork, the magical Hobgoblin, shy-to-the-point-of-invisibility Nini, and the uptight Fillyjonk and her three children.

The idyllic lives of these characters are occasionally ruffled by the unwelcome intrusions of local bully Stinky, of the chilly Groke, of a pretty ship's figurehead that rouses Snork Maiden's jealousy, or even of a pirate – but there are few problems in Moominvalley that cannot be solved by the contents of Moominmama's seemingly bottomless handbag, or by a shell miraculously found on a beach. Which is to say that Moomin offers younger viewers a welcoming retreat from reality, where fun and adventures are usually had, difficulties are always amicably overcome, and where even a menacing figure like the Groke can look both frightening and ridiculous at the same time, and ultimately have her ice-cold heart melted by the most unlikely of talismans.

Along the way, there are lessons about the value of generosity, confidence and, well, niceness. It is all very sweet and innocent, like a pleasant dream (and dreams, if not always pleasant ones, become something of a recurring motif in the show, starting with Little My's opening line in episode one).

The denizens of Moomin Valley, modeled closely on Jansson's original illustrations, are appealing to the eye, if somewhat bland in character. Still, once that infuriating theme song has wormed its way into your brain, you'll be cursing the day you ever heard it. Fans of the original will no doubt find plenty to like here, and plenty to grumble about too – but children will most likely just be enraptured by this inoffensive parade of the weird and the wonderful.

Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2008
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Moomin – The Complete Series One packshot
Animated fantasy about Moomintroll and his pals.
Amazon link

Director: Hiroshi Saito

Writer: Akira Miyazaki and Shozo Matsudaa, based on ideas and characters created by Tove Jansson

Starring: Voices of: Susan Sheridan, Toni Barry, Pat Starr, Peter Whitman, John Chancer, David Graham, Garrick Hagon, Jeff Harding, Stacey Jefferson

Year: 1990

Runtime: 328 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: Japan, Finland, Netherlands


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