European Film Awards: Best Animated Feature
Created from an astonishing 500,000 hand-painted frames of animation, the gorgeous second feature from French animator Jacques-Rémy Girerd is a thrilling family adventure that pits a plucky, wild haired young heroine Mia against profit-hungry developers, with the future of life on Earth in the balance.
One night Mia has a premonition. So after saying a few words of parting at her mother's grave, she sets out on a journey across mountains and jungles to search for her father, who has been trapped in a landslide at a disaster-plagued construction site on a remote tropical lake. In the middle of the lake stands the ancient Tree of Life, watched over by innocent, bumbling forest spirits called the Migoo, who grow and change shape as they please, morphing from small childlike beings to petulant giants. It is the Migoo who have been disrupting the construction to protect this sacred site – and now together with Mia - they join in a fight to find Mia's father and save the Tree.
The evidence of the human hand, and all the labor implied by such work, is part of the low-wattage charm of the French animated children’s movie “Mia and the Migoo,” where visible brushstrokes fill blocks of bright color. The human touch is the most notable aspect of “Mia,” which won as best animated feature at the 2009 European Film Awards and involves a girl, her father, a tree of life, a bad dad, his unhappy son and the curious shapeshifter (or two) that is the movie’s most diverting creation.
Being incredibly resourceful, Mia quickly makes her way from her native land to the forest where her father has gone missing. There, amid cawing, calling animals and washes of pastel green, she meets the Migoo (Wallace Shawn), a pleasingly plump creature who shrinks, grows and divides into little versions of himself, like a particularly advanced single cell. Beige-brown and speckled with crosshatch marks, the Migoo brings to mind a hairless yeti and the Michelin Man. He’s a joyous, seemingly anarchic character, if one with a higher purpose, and the director, Jacques-Rémy Girerd, does his most vivid work bringing this bearish critter to life, whether the Migoo is racing up the side of a cliff or slipping through the earth as if it were water.
The message here might be green, but the pulsing red that soon fills the screen suggests that Mr. Girerd digs the apocalypse more. Even so, trying to parse meaning in “Mia” is secondary to its main point, which is its look, created with 500,000 hand-drawn frames. That’s impressive in an age in which most mainstream animation is done with computers. - The New York Times
A plucky young heroine, a mystical quest to save the environment (and a missing father) from callous corporate-military development, and a band of mysterious monsters who protect a gargantuan Tree of Life: You’d be forgiven for mistaking Mia and the Migoo for the latest animated effort by Hayao Miyazaki. Narratively speaking, Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s fable is a direct descendant of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. The film’s character and creature designs are derivatively Miyazakian, though its vibrantly expressionistic color helps give Mia’s hand-drawn visuals (especially of shimmering subterranean foliage) their own distinct identity. - The Village Voice