I made a goal that I would see every animated film of 2014. I thought with Song of the Sea I would have all 13. Well, little did I know there were many more foreign and independent animated films still to see. So I will finish my goal and plan on at least seeing all the films submitted for academy consideration. One on the list was actually a 2013 release in France but got a small American release in January 2014 (only 4 reviews on rotten tomatoes so it must have been in only LA) called Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants. It’s too bad more people don’t know about it because it was a total delight.
Let me start off by saying this movie is so cute. Evidently it is based off of a popular TV show in France created by Thomas Szabo and Helen Giraud. It tells the journey of an ant and a ladybug. There is no dialogue or spoken words of any kind beyond the squeaking of insects but it is not needed. It reminded me a lot of Wall-e in that respect.
The film is computer animation set on real life backgrounds of the South of France mountains (gorgeously shot). At the start a human couple is eating a picnic when they must go to have a baby leaving their lunch behind including a box of sugar. It is of course discovered by our ants and a ladybug who has a torn wing. They then go on a journey to take the tin of sugar to the ant hill but encounter a lizard, frog and an army of red ants. In a great scene they must navigate the box through a river with the red ants in a pop can following them.
It is so creative how they use implements available to an ant to battle each other and I got into the story. It’s amazing what you can do without any dialogue at all! The ladybug then goes to get more matches and faces off with a spider who proves to actually be a friend. The spider kind of looks like the coal creatures in Spirited Away but other than that it is an entirely original design.
I won’t give it all away but it’s a delight. Kids will love it especially small toddler age kids. I remember my little sister would watch this movie that just followed farm animals around the farm over and over again. We think little one’s need the dialogue but they don’t. They don’t understand what most of the words mean so a story like this is actually quite perfect for them.
And I think parents will enjoy it too. It’s charming with enough story to entertain adults (at least this adult). It you are an adult that appreciates beautiful art it has that too (its not only cute). The photography is gorgeous. Makes you want to go to France!
It could be a little bit shorter and a few dream sections drag, but overall I was highly entertained by Miniscule. I wish more Americans could see it because I think it could do quite well with the right publicity. It was only $27 million to make which is amazing because it looks so good (when I think Legends of Oz had 3 times the budget it is hard to believe). With such a small budget it wouldn’t take much for it to be a success (and I think it already was in Europe but not sure). Like I said, especially little children 5 and under will LOVE it.
The music by Herve Lavandier is crucial to making the film work. With no dialogue it gives you the right cue to the situation and creates mood and tension.
I’m certainly glad I saw it! I only wish I had been able to see it in 3D. That would have been so cool! The lucky French! I watched it here