Snowtime! An Animated Ball

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In the wake of the massive snow storm on the Eastern seaboard, I found myself waiting in line to see Carpe Diem’s winter children’s animation snowfest La Guerre des Tuques, which is called Snowtime! for US audiences. This Sundance showing was the premiere of the English-language version of the film, and was shown as part of the Sundance Kids segment of the film festival. The kids at the show were all met by a life-size Chloe at the door, and most left with their very own Snowball of fun.

The film starts as you would expect any children’s animated film to- the boys pulling pranks on each other, and even the obligatory fart joke. As we follow they kids through their story, the film takes on a maturity and a depth that you don’t see coming, and this animated world becomes a lot more realistic than many live-action films.

The film features a large group of eleven year old boys from a small, snowed-in village pondering what they want to do over their holiday from school. Child genius Frankie Four-Eyes (Sandra Oh) has designed an incredible snow-fort, and the kids decide to spend their vacation alternately defending or attacking the fort. Whoever controls the fort on the last day of vacation will be deemed the winner. Luke and newly-arrived Sophie captain the alternate sides, but in the course of their battles they find something more than enemies in each other.

As the last day of vacation approaches, both sides realize the need to prove themselves on their battlefield. They pull out all the stops in their last battle. As the effects of the battle escalate, none of the children could have predicted the horrible results of their game.

The film was based on a 1984 live-action film La Guerre des Tuques by André Mélançon. The producer of that original film floated the idea of an animated version of the story to Marie-Claude Beauchamp, and she was instantly sold on the remake. Co-director François Brisson was overjoyed at the project, saying, “We could do so much more in the animated film than they could in live-action. We had incredible abilities to make the scenes more like a kid would imagine than as reality would dictate.”

That original story also dictated the surprise in the end (which might be a little hard to take for the very young). It will certainly effect the older kids, but not in an overhanded way. Marie-Claude Beauchamp defended the strong dose of reality to the kids present by saying, “Things like this happen in real life, and we wanted to teach you- in a way not like school- that you will face death in your life. We could not not include this.”

The animated world is incredibly rich, based on a realistic base, but with its own whims and accents thrown on top. Little dashes of crayon highlight almost every object, and give things more of an entree into the child-like vision of the world. That is what this film succeeds so well at, giving us a way into the child’s view of the world.

Snowtime! starts us off in that carefree and sometimes mercurial world of of youthful fun and exuberance. Playtime may be the focus of their days, and sometimes the results of their actions are far more serious than they originally thought. The kids are growing up, and maturing. Real life is coming at them from many directions.

The US cast includes Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh (Frankie “Four Eyes”), Ross Lynch of pop band R5 (Piers), Angela Gallupo (Luke, Lucy), Lucinda Davis (Sophie), Sonja Ball (Manolo, Jack) and Don Shepherd (Chuck). The soundtrack for Snowtime! features music by Celine Dion and Simple Plan.

Snowtime! released in French in the Quebec region of Canada on Nov 13, 2015. Despite being first released in French, the film was actually produced in English, according to writer Paul Risacher. The English version premiere was January 23 at Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, and the movie will have a limited release in U.S. theaters starting February 19.

Snowtime! is not a film I would take a six year old to. But pre-teens would be ideal, and would probably get a lot out of the movie, without even knowing it. For that audience, this is a great film.

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