This is a good week for ecologically themed DVD releases.
The big name, of course, is “The Lorax,” the colorful adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss story by some of the people behind the delightful “Despicable Me.”
But today I’m going to focus on the hidden gem “Mia and the Migoo.” It’s from the French studio Folimage, which animated the Oscar-nominated “A Cat in Paris”, and a new, dubbed version was released here on DVD Tuesday.
It’s a sweet story, beautifully animated, that doesn’t get too preachy or wallow in cute, which are easy to do in this kind of film.
Despite Mia being in the title, it’s really the dueling stories of two children: Mia, the daughter of a construction worker who’s taken a job far from home to support his daughter, and Aldrin, the son of the construction site’s owner.
Things aren’t going well on the job site. Something is destroying equipment and leaving giant footprints behind. As Mia’s father, Pedro, investigates, he’s caught under a collapsing tunnel. Mia has a dream about her father and decides to travel on foot to find him.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jekhide’s investors are antsy, and he takes them and Aldrin to the site, where he goes into typical bad guy mode. The site is on a beautiful lake that is the home to the Tree of Life. Jekhide just sees an enormous stump and plans to destroy it and the “monster” that is ruining his plans for a luxury hotel.
The “monster,” it turns out, is the Migoo, a race of forest spirits tasked with protecting the tree. As Mia makes her incredible journey (seriously, she crosses “hundreds of miles” largely on foot in less than 24 hours), she befriends the Migoo and, later, Aldrin.
Do they save the tree? Do they find Pedro? Does Mr. Jekhide find redemption? You’ll just have to watch.
The story is a little thin and easy and characters a bit broad (Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo as a strange old woman who doesn’t really need to be there). Interestingly, the minor characters (Pedro’s co-workers, a wonderful woman on a bus Mia rides) are almost on equal footing. Despite its flaws, the story is still interesting. Take that, Dora.
And I can’t say enough about the gorgeous art. The press release calls it a mix of Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne, and I can’t argue. The colors are brilliant, and the brush strokes on the backgrounds and the characters are exquisitely rough. Unlike so much feature animation these days, the film is mostly hand-painted. The love shows. The film is just beautiful, as is the music.
The dub cast includes Matthew Modine, James Woods, Wallace Shawn and, my personal favorite, John DiMaggio (Aquaman on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”).
So when the kids get sick of “The Lorax,” pull this one out. You’ll be glad you did.
See a trailer and more of the beautiful artwork at the film’s fun, interactive website.