Sequels are a funny thing. Most of the time in modern Hollywood, they come within a breath of the first film, usually after a large box office in order to capitalize on its earnings. Sometimes, they can take years, even decades to make. Blade Runner: 2049 came out in 2017, 35 years after the original film. In addition, many times when a sequel takes so long to materialize, the intended audience has flown the coop, and it has dismal results. See Basic Instinct 2 or The Two Jakes. Other times, it inspires new waves of fans to flock to the theaters, such as Tron: Legacy or The Incredibles 2. Today, we are taking a look at Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia, a sequel to the original Ernest & Celestine movie which was nominated for an Academy Award and took home many other film awards. It’s been a decade since the original film; can the sequel keep the spirit of the original and produce a quality film? I’m happy to say, yes, it certainly did. Let’s take a look.
Since the film does not provide a quick recap from the original, I’ll go ahead and provide this. Ernest and Celestine had each won their freedom from their respective imprisonment. Their only wish was to live together as best friends and have exciting adventures … after Ernest gets some sleep.
We get a lively music number to start the film. Ernest (voiced by Lambert Wilson, dub by Andrew Kishino) and Celestine (voiced by Pauline Brunner, dub by Ashley Boettcher) are playing their own instruments after hearing some music. They join all of the others who are playing music and soon they are fitting themselves into a tram car bouncing down the rail. Somehow in this situation, Celestine gets lost and Ernest runs after her. Instead of finding the small mouse, he finds a giant gavel that stares at him menacingly. The gavel starts to come down on Ernest’s head, and then he wakes up.
Ernest wakes up with a start after three long months of hibernation. Celestine is calling him down to have breakfast. Groggy, Ernest eventually harnesses enough energy to make it down the stairs. The cheery mouse serves him a cup of hot chocolate, which he quickly finishes in one slurp. Then he asks for more. But there is no more; the two are out of food, and out of money to buy more.
Celestine suggests to Ernest that he go and play music in the city in order to get some money. She even goes as far to get his violin, a Stradibearius, and bring it down to him. However, she trips on the stairs and falls down to the first floor. In the process, she breaks the one-of-a-kind instrument, bringing Ernest to utter despair over the broken violin.
As Ernest weeps over his violin, Celestine asks if anyone can fix the broken instrument. Ernest says only Octavius the Luthier can. But Octavius lives in the town of Gibberitia, a place where Ernest was raised and he doesn’t want to go back to. The only place he wants to go is back to bed.
Meanwhile, Celestine checks books, consults maps, and looks on the globe for the town with little luck. She finally finds a visitor’s guide that indicates the location of Ernest’s hometown. But Ernest still isn’t having it, so Celestine decides to go on her own and leaves the bear with nothing but a note telling him of her departure. However, the road is long and covered with snow. Trouble awaits. Even if they get to Gibberitia, there is no telling what will happen to the bear and the mouse.
Hope it’s not considered a spoiler, but they eventually get to Gibberitia, only to find out that music (except for the one note “Do”) has been outlawed in the town. There is a resistance however, seemingly led by an individual known only as Mifasol (voiced by Levanah Solomon, dub by Lena Josephine Marano). If you remember the first film when Ernest was in a different town square (before Ernest would ever meet Celestine), he was actually cited or ticketed for playing music, so I thought this was an interesting throwback to the previous film.
The film is really so wonderful. Through the music and the instruments, even this old reviewer felt like a kid again. It’s a film that should be shared with kids and adults alike (exactly like the first film). The story is rich but doesn’t overstay its welcome and does everything it needs to do to make sure there is not a single dull moment in the 80-minute run time. This world they have created for Ernest and Celestine is so much fun, though, that you may never want to leave.
All of the voice actors, whether French or English, bring so much character to their roles. If you remember the first film, the English dub actually had some quite renowned actors and actresses like Forest Whitaker and Lauren Bacall. While they might not have the same name power in the second film, Andrew Kishino, Ashley Boettcher, and David Lodge among others made this dub track stand out. Furthermore, the original French actors of Lambert Wilson and Pauline Brunner make their return and were equally good in their characterization. Often in animated films, the original language is the only one to listen to. In this case, you can’t go wrong with either one provided.
If I had to give one criticism it is that in the first film, a lot of focus goes into Celestine’s drawing ability. Here, we don’t see her draw a single thing that I can remember, and nearly the entire emphasis is on Ernest. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but if we ever get a third film (it better not take ten years), I would really like them to go back to this in some fashion (at least a sub-plot).
The video is in 1.85:1 widescreen. Much like the first film, the style has not changed (perhaps just the tools to make it), and the result is this wonderful “hand-drawn” animation. Naturally, it is still run through a computer, but it is full of color and vibrancy, making this a delight to look at even before you listen to the music or the words. Whether the background is still or moving in nature, there are plenty of details to pick out to enhance your experience. If I had to provide a negative, maybe the banding could be improved, but this gets a BD-50, so I’m not sure it could really be improved much. I would love to see more animated films with this style, and not only Ernest and Celestine, either.
The audio for this one is DTS-HD 5.1 in French and English. Subtitles are provided in English (for original language), English SDH, and Spanish. Many times in animated films, if it is not the dialog (which sounds clear and without issue), the sound effects or usage of surround is often subdued. That is not the case here.
This is a lively and musical film. I don’t mean there are a lot of musical numbers, ala Chicago or South Pacific. I mean that there are a lot of scenes with music, notes, and instruments. All of that fills the speakers and makes it sound like they harnessed a band right within the confines of the film. That alone would probably be good enough for most viewers. Add to that a great use of surrounds with snow, rain, and other effects that make fantastic use of every single speaker. It’s not bombastic for the sake of being that way either; it’s completely appropriate. Extremely high marks here.
- Making Of 15:51: We get the producers, Damien and Didier Brunner, along with the directors and voice actors talking about the original film (which was derived from the book series) which led to a TV series (can we get a blu-ray release with an English dub or subtitles, please?), but there was obvious interest in an eventual sequel. We also get to visit the Folivari production offices and see the various animators working on the film. It is so rare to see a sequel this far out from the first film still have so many of the original people in place to make the picture. All of this leads to the premiere, which was held at the 2022 Annecy Animated Film Festival.
- Interview with the Directors 12:16: Directors Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng lead this featurette and talk about their opportunity in leading this film. They also go over the story and share some of the challenges in making the film.
- Interview with the Cast 11:16: French voice actors, Lambert Wilson and Pauline Brunner go over their respective roles as well as how they approached their characters, Ernest and Celestine. I swear Pauline is exactly like her counterpart, quite the spitfire with a mountain of spunk. Very charming featurette.
- Interview with Producer Didier Brunner 10:45: Didier also helped to write the story as well as performing production duties. Here he goes over the script as well as the voice cast. He goes a little off the rails at the end, but still a good listen.
- How To Draw Ernest & Celestine 1:48: I think I wanted a little more out of this one. It’s very short, and Jean-Christophe Roger is doing the honors here in a very quick demonstration of the title characters. Earlier this week, me and my son actually watched a very detailed how-to drawing of a cartoon character which we both immensely enjoyed, and each did our own drawing. I mean, it was fourteen minutes long, but this particular feature could have been a few minutes longer to flesh it out some.
- Trailers 3:22: Two trailers to enjoy here with the English dub and then the original French one.
- NOTE: This set does not come with a DVD (as many previous GKids releases did), but it does have a beautiful slipcover. In addition, much like the first film, you will notice a gorgeous inside cover art, perfect to slip into a clear case if you have one available.
As it turns out, the sequel is already no stranger to awards grabbing a nomination for Best Animated Feature – Independent at the Annie Awards, though it has some stiff competition from The Inventor and a few other films. On Rotten Tomatoes with 23 reviews and counting, it has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, and it’s really hard to say anything negative about the film. It’s delightful, it’s whimsical; it makes you feel like a kid again, which is the best compliment I can give. The voice actors on the French and English side give maximum effort, and it shows up in the finished product.
The disc is an equally good outing with great video, fantastic audio, and even a few meaty extras to spend your time with. I was really impressed that this was taken as a serious release and not one of those sequels they released with little fanfare. As expected, I give this a very strong recommendation, and if any animation fan has not seen the original and/or sequel, then they should remedy that immediately. Both releases are available through GKids/Shout Factory, but if you are in a rush, you can check out the first Ernest and Celestine adventure on Tubi, which was still available at time of this writing for free (w/commercials). (I did this for the first viewing but later purchased a Blu-ray copy because I loved it so much). Enjoy.