The Moomin characters created by Finnish author-illustrator Tove Jansson will star in a new TV show, but fans will still have to wait a couple of years.
The residents of Moominvalley first appeared in Jansson's 13 fantasy books, beginning in 1945. They have been featured in several animated TV series and films since the 1960s. The best known was a Japanese-made children's series from the early 1990s, while the most recent was the more adult 2014 Finnish-French movie Moomins on the Riviera.
The producer of the new TV venture, Marika Makaroff, appeared on Yle TV's breakfast show on Friday to present the first sketches for the show. She says this show is also more of a mature drama than the Japanese version. Makaroff notes that the characters have a growing cult following of adults worldwide, particularly in the UK, US and Japan. Many of them have supported a crowdfunding project to help get the project off the ground.
Older, more questioning Moomintroll
"In Asia and of course Japan the Moomins already have massive popularity, with 40 percent of all sales. Another 40 percent is here in the Nordic countries. We're trying to get new areas such as the US involved in the series. Through our crowdfunding campaign, we've noticed that there are already hipster fans in American university towns," says Makaroff.
The new show centres on seven main characters, led by Moomintroll, seen here as slightly older and more questioning of his role in the family than in previous screen depictions. As Makaroff sees it, Tove Jansson's philosophy of tolerance, support and personal courage are more timely than ever.
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The project has a budget of some 20 million euros so far, which Makaroff says is large by European standards.
Two seasons are currently on the drawing board, each with 13 episodes of just under half an hour each.
Makaroff has been working on the project for two years through her firm Gutsy Animation, and has already secured major partners.
One is Sophia Jansson, who is Tove Jansson's niece and CEO of the Moomin Characters company, which controls rights to the characters and stories. She is on board as Creative Consultant, and has already approved the first 12 scripts.
Hired as Series Director & Head Writer is Steve Box, whose 2005 Wallace and Gromit won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Some of the scriptwriters are veterans of the British series Shaun the Sheep. Preliminary animation is being done by the Piñata studio, which helped design Finnish gaming giant Supercell's video games.
"Artistic love at first sight"
Meeting Steve Box, says Makaroff, was "artistic love at first sight. The long English tradition of screenwriting and sophisticated humour suits the stories of Tove and Lars Jansson." The latter was Tove's brother and Sofia's father, who created a dry satirical Moomin newspaper comic strip that ran in British newspapers from 1954 to 1975.
Composing the music are Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and percussionist Samuli Kosminen. The names of the actors who will do the English voices are to be announced next autumn.