Say hello to Miranda the Girl Flea, Dagmar the Dancing Mosquito and Egon the Cycling Mosquito. Meet the gloomy Caterpillar, Basse the Dung Beetle, Dumrik the Assassin Bug and Snothas the Cockroach.
"What we really want to achieve is telling a story that even the youngest audiences can enjoy and identify with, while at the same time appealing to their parents."
And above all, tip your hat to Mini the Beetle, the star of Jannik Hastrup and Flemming Quist Møller's Mini and the Mozzies. Their new film is that rare thing – art for a young audience with songs and music, humour and depth, wit and grit. Bullied out of the flea circus after an awkward fail, title character Mini the Beetle goes astray. But no road is so thorny in Hastrup and Quist Møller's generous universe that it fails to lead back to the flea circus and Mini's friends, to happy reunion and reconciliation.
"We want to entertain children with a story and a cast of characters that deal with subjects like bullying and friendship but in the shape of an adventure," the two directors say. Like its 2007 predecessor, A Tale of Two Mozzies, the new film's universe and characters are based on Flemming Quist Møller's timeless 1967 children's book about the two mosquitoes Egon and Dagmar. Once again, the two directors are working in a classic cutout technique.
While computers were used to animate the characters, the drawings are handmade and you don't sense the presence of digital technology. In other words, Hastrup and Quist Møller's tactile poetry is a far cry from the slick, turbocharged computer animations that the Americans, in particular, master to perfection.
For Children and Adults Alike
Mini the Beetle first charmed audiences as a side character inA Tale of Two Mozzies and eventually Hastrup and Quist Møller thought he deserved to be the star of their second film set in the buggy world of Egon and his friends.
But the ambitious veterans are not content to just reach a new children's audience with their latest collaboration. Characteristically, the satirical subtext ensures that an adult audience, too, will be amply entertained by Mini and the Mozzies.
"What we really want to achieve is telling a story that even the youngest audiences can enjoy and identify with, while at the same time appealing to their parents. We don't care to make a film which we ourselves wouldn't want to go and watch at the cinema," Hastrup and Quist Møller say.
"Mini and the Mozzies" Framegrab
For close to a lifetime now, Quist Møller and Hastrup have put their thumbprints all over Danish animation.
They first met in an advertising studio in the early 1960s and made a few, quirky animated shorts together. Their creative partnership peaked with 1971's Benny's Bathtub, an animated feature about a boy who explores a magical world at the bottom of his bathtub. Revered for its highly imaginative style, the film is included in the official Danish film canon.
The partners then went their separate ways. Hastrup created his famous children's TV series about Circleen and her mice friends (1968-70) and series of films with a political content that would be a defining characteristic of the director. Hastrup's heart is on the left and beats for the world's small and vulnerable beings. He next brought out a number of now classic theatrical animated films, including Samson & Sally (1984), War of the Birds (1990), The Monkeys and the Secret Weapon (1995), and three features, including Little Big Mouse (2004), starring his hugely famous Circleen with spiky black hair and a polka-dot dress who sleeps in a matchbox on the artist's desk.
Quist Møller, continuing along a parallel but more rounded and gently satirical path, made three popular animated films and a TV series about the fantasy creature Hugo. Jungle Jack (1993), The Movie Star (1996) and Jungo Goes Bananas (2007) are contemporary classics in Denmark, where children and their adults love the rare, lovable, self-involved, sly and temperamental, food-loving and drop-dead charming Hugo, who, it is said, embodies a big chunk of the Danish national character.
When the two filmmakers finally reunited professionally and co-directed their first feature in 36 years, A Tale of Two Mozzies, their chemistry was clearly intact. The success of the film naturally led to a second opus, Mini and the Mozzies, featuring Miranda, Egon, Mini and all the other half-inch heroes.
Mini and the Mozzies is selected for Berlinale's children's programme Generation Kplus. The film is produced by Marie Bro for Dansk Tegnefilm.