Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NYICFF ’12: Lotte and the Moonstone Secret

Not many cartoon characters have airplanes named after them, but Estonians have that degree of love for a young canine from Gadgetville. There are stuffed Lottes for sale in their toy stores and now her name will grace one of Estonia Air’s NextGen aircraft. It seems appropriate enough, considering how far and how effortlessly she travels in her latest animated adventure, Heiki Ernits & Janno Põldma’s Lotte and the Moonstone Secret (trailer here), which screens during the upcoming 2012 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

In Gadgetville, Lotte’s father is a constant tinkerer. She is a dreamer in an idealist way, while lazy Uncle Klaus prefers the more conventional kind. One night, when everyone in the quiet hamlet should be sleeping, two mysterious rabbits sneak about trying to find the foot that fits a particular shoe. Klaus would be that Cinderella. After an awakened Lotte sends the mystery bunnies scampering, Klaus recalls he lost the shoe on the same hiking trip where he a found the strange stone whose radiant warmth he curls around whenever he sleeps. (Klaus probably will never have puppies now, but fortunately Lotte and her parents seem to be enough family for him.)

As Klaus recalls, he inadvertently swiped three uncanny stones from a hidden mountain temple, which he and his two buddies divvied up between them. Intrigued by the mystery, Lotte prods Klaus to take her on the road, collecting the other two stones. Unbeknownst to them, the uncanny lepus are right behind them.

Lotte is a cute kid (or pup or whatever) and her resourcefulness is appealing. In this adventure, she is unquestionably much more responsible than her slacker uncle. Even though old Klaus teaches her to trust in providence more, parents should still approve of her example.

Ernits & Põldma’s animation is hardly Studio Ghibli quality, but it is at least bright and cheerful. Indeed, it matches its protagonist’s indomitable pluckiness rather fittingly. Neither is the story particularly complicated, but it takes viewers to some fairly fresh fantastical places. Indeed, the Lotte franchise is definitely targeted towards younger viewers, so the dubbed dialogue is understandable.

Everyone loves talking dogs and bunnies and Moonstone has plenty. Pleasant and upbeat, Lotte should charm youngsters and it has absolutely nothing for even the most vigilant parents to object to. Recommended for mature tots and animal loving first and second graders, Lotte and the Moonstone Secret screens this Saturday (3/3) at the Cantor Film Center, Sunday (3/11) at the Scholastic Theater, and Saturday (3/17) also at Scholastic.