Neil deGrasse Tyson might not approve of the astronomy, but so be it. This gentle quest fable is a charmer and probably good bedtime viewing for little ones, so hopefully some enterprising DVD distributor will pick it up, despite its twenty-seven-minute running time. When the moon gets stuck in the trees only a young boy and a lunar squirrel can save it in Takeshi Yashiro’s elegant stop-motion animated short Moon of a Sleepless Night (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Winter Film Awards.
The little boy is tossing and turning tonight, so his woodsman father takes him out for a stroll to tire him out. There is no moon to light their way, so the woodsman deduces it is hung up on the treetops somewhere to the east. Naturally, they set out to free it, unless the “Rabbit of the Moon” does so first. Apparently, that is exactly what happened, except he is a squirrel, not a rabbit (as he explains repeatedly to the boy and his mother)—and he has rather negligently let himself get left behind.
The following day refuses to give way to night, because the squirrel-less moon is presumably stuck beyond the horizon. That has rather real world implications for the boy’s family, because his father might not know when to come home from his fishing expedition, so the boy heads off with the squirrel to right the situation.
Moon is a wonderfully gentle and captivating tale, whose charms are equally endearing for viewers of all ages. It is certainly fantastical and furry, thanks to the talking squirrel, but it also functions as a thoughtful coming-of-age story. The deliberately woody, rough-hewn look of Yashiro’s people are still oddly expressive and well-serve the film’s rustic woodland vibe. Yet, the forest world they inhabit is rich in detail and lushly realized.