Rediscovering the Moomins: A Conversation with Hanna Hemilä
Moomins On The Riviera, features the entire Moomin clan as they embark on a hilarious adventure on the glamorous Riviera. After a journey fraught with menacing storms and desert island dangers, Snorkmaiden is dazzled by the attentions of a playboy and Moomin learns that jealousy’s sting is the most painful of all.
The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali in association with Lydia Kay of Acting Hour had the pleasure of talking to Producer Hanna Hemilä for the release of Moomins On The Riviera, she tells us about the inspiration for the film, going back to the comic strips of the fifties, her favourite characters and what she has coming up…
So what was it about the Moomins that make you decide to bring it to the big screen?
There hasn’t been featured films based on these comic strips before, there have been some feature films done earlier based on the novels but when we started this project and we started to develop it and plan the style and all that, it became clear that it was going to be a huge job to translate these strips into the audio visual art.
And then we started to discuss it’s is such a big job that it would be a pity not to take advantage of it also in the cinema and offer the possibility to enjoy all that in the cinema. And therefore we started pretty early to discuss of making a feature film based on the comic strips.
And leading up from that, how important was it for you to stay true to the original animation story style of the original cartoons?
The decision was made that the film would be an homage to Tove Jansson who had her 100th birthday last year so that was our starting point.
So of course we want it to be as much truthful as possible to her original style bearing in mind that this is still going to be a feature film and she had been working on comic strips. So of course we still wanted people to enjoy the film experience.
I haven’t read any of the comic strips or the novels but my interactions with the Moomins was the cartoon series.
So I am a Moomins fan and a lot of my staff are actually Moomins fans as well.
And do you think it will still appeal to the old generation who remember or were you more keen to engage the younger audience?
In a way we felt that we already had the younger audience because there has been the Japanese Series, which was a real extensive one in the nineties which was also drawn animation so we thought that the younger audience will be there anyway but the tricky question was how to get the information through to the public that this is also for grown-ups, that there is completely different layer of humour for grown-ups and enjoyment so that they don’t need to feel that they can’t go because it’s a children’s movie. This was in fact the challenge that we had quite earlier on.
I’m assuming you were a fan of the series growing up, who was your favourite character and why?
Well I liked Stinky a lot, I think he is so human. He has so many weaknesses that so many of us have. Maybe its Stinky, I do like Little My a lot, of course, but then I think most of us like Little My but then I have this side, I like Stinky and his funny adventures.
What was the inspiration behind the new Riviera story and was it intended to have a strong moral sub text or was that a happy accident?
Well In the original strip that Tove wrote in 1955 it was targeted for the grown-up reading in London‘s Times at that time. So there was this layer of humour already there.
Our challenge was how to make it work with today’s audience, the humour has developed also, and also what was for grown-ups in the 50’s isn’t exactly the same as what the grown-ups are expecting today so that was something we had to address.
But as far as the main arc of the story we didn’t need to change that immensely, had we done a film based on the strip, it would have been a fifteen minutes strip so of course we had to invent a lot more and also that original story starts where they had already decided that they are going to Riviera and we knew that we already had an audience who are completely unaware of the Moomins as well as the comic strips.
So we thought that we had to tell those people who don’t know the Moomins in advance, we had to tell them what creatures these are in order to understand why there are these conflicts in Riviera so funny, so therefore we had to establish a home and their character s before they left.
Is that the reason the story line is more light hearted than the darker undertones of the series that I remember when I watched it?
Well we were after comedy all the time, so of course, her story in Riviera, I haven’t thought that it was like dark times, I mean, I agree with you that it deals with serious matters but I feel that Tove Jansson has been treating them, you know, in a very tender and comedic caring manner. That’s the tone that we wanted to keep in the film.
And finally, what is next for you?
We are talking about the possibility of continuing, making another film and there are some other projects that I am developing as well so we’ll see.
MOOMINS ON THE RIVIERA IS OUT NOW