Anyone who’s chuckled madly at the 4 minute animated slices of goodness that make-up Minuscule, will no doubt be welling with excitement at the thought of a full length feature delving into this charming insect world. French creators Hélène Giraud and Thomas Szabo have taken the plunge, writing and directing a film crammed with action packed diversions and loveable characters, all the while incorporating their brand of dialogue free universally relatable humour.
Minuscule’s appeal is in it’s human like portrayal of insects through hilarious cute anecdotes. The animation style brings computer modelled 3D characters to life, set against natural backgrounds such as rural french countryside, homes, roads, drains, ponds and everyday objects. Considering the appearance of humans in the series is rare and merely vague at best it’s surprising that Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants opens on a couple relaxing in the woods. It does however help set up the scene of an abandoned picnic which leads into the main storyline of an adorable baby Ladybug who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes, ultimately saving a colony of black ants from the ferocious attack of a pack of red ants.
Giraud and Szabo’s ability to create apathetic characters and engage the audience through purely physical humour is well honed, they’ve taken full advantage of the film’s length, resulting in some extremely fun chaotic sequences which flow beautifully. They’ve also put a lot of thought into scale and proportion of the insects in their environment, as well as injecting some clever unintended object use into scenes. This is exceptionally memorable in the final battle sequence which could be likened to a medieval charge at a castle, red ants armed with slingshots, projecting toothpicks and forks like arrows and using a pine cone as a battering ram.
Simplicity is a key factor that runs through the series and it’s the act of baby bugs trying to take off, or a wild chase that ends in the ‘bad guys’ slamming into some hard rock or car headlight which sends viewers of all ages into fits of laughter. Aside from the main story our little ladybug tackles some bullying flies, overcomes her/his fears, befriends a spider, deals with abandonment and starts a family amongst other things. All these sub plots do get a bit much near the end but definitely ensure there is never a dull moment and none of the underlying lessons are lost on the audience either.
The scenery as always is gorgeous, providing a chance to show off the beauty of provincial France, highlighting emerging fauna and flora of spring in the forests and lakes. However in the blur of production it’s sometimes hard to distinguish differences between CGI animated elements of certain backgrounds, leaving parts of the movie feeling wholly cartoonish instead of smacking of that signature surrealistic vibe it’s creators have built the series success on. Also the additional shoot in 3D doesn’t add any further dimension to the film than the usual 2D episodes and probably wouldn’t be missed by those attending a 2D session.
Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants does not disappoint, those who know the series well will be satisfied with the familiarity and warmth of the characters, whilst those who are completely new to the concept will find this film an enchanting introduction to Miniscule. It’s apparent that a lot of care, and love has gone into it’s production resulting in an experience that exudes the infectious passion and cheerful spirit of it’s creators. It’s one of those feel good kind of films that will no doubt add to the franchise’s increasing popularity worldwide.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Duration: 89 minutes
Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants is in limited release in cinemas nationwide, official trailer below: