Review: Yuku et la Fleur de l’Himalaya

– Arnaud Demuynck and Rémi Durin win the bet to bring the very young audience to a longer format through a story of friendship that is enchanting in many ways

This article is available in English.

Yuku and Himalayan flowertreated to an open-air screening at the Annecy Animated Film Festival, is the first feature film presented by Belgian author, director and producer Arnaud Demuynck, who has been specializing in animated films for very young audiences for many years now. The author of several shorts, he especially launched the hit series La Chouette du biograf – collections of lively and engaging short films aimed at children aged 4 and over – a little over five years ago, offering a wonderful introduction to the cinema for the little ones, taking into account their attention, their love of repetition and their musical sensibility. So many formulas refined in these programs, which are combined into a longer format in this case (relatively long, as the film lasts 1 hour and 5 minutes) for the animated viewing pleasure for the smallest audiences.

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Yuku is an unmistakably junky and cheerful little mouse. She lives with her large and very matriarchal family in a castle basement. Her mother encourages her to collect provisions to feed their clan, but Yuku is far more tempted by her grandmother’s invitation to take on her cloak as the family’s storyteller.

Stories open doors to understand the world in new ways. They help us to live together and to understand emotions, as well as strengthen the bonds. During the story and Yuku’s various encounters, the little mouse tells his own story. To ensure that her grandmother’s talents are passed on to her, she pulls on the hat of the family envoy and goes in search of the Himalayan flower, planted on the highest mountain peak, which holds the brightest light and will help Yuku’s grandmother make her peace with the obscurity of the world outside. Our little heroine has set herself a huge mission with only her ukulele – albeit fearsome – as a weapon.

She subsequently embarks on a journey that also serves as a quest, where she rattles songs between one meeting and the next, switching from ska to boogie woogie and from rap to blues. All the flavorful ingredients required to capture young children are here: puzzles, songs, expected or unexpected evil, lifelong friends and countless animals from fables that lend a hand with our little mouse. There is plenty of good feeling, obstacles are overcome, life is tackled head-on, and complexes are chased away, making Yuku an inspiring heroine who (then) sings the lives of her young viewers.

Carried by happy and colorful drawings and sober, yet effective animation, the film keeps its promises, not least thanks to a cast of winning voices, led by the young Lily Demuynck-Deydier and further enhanced by the late Arno, Agnès Jaoui, Tom Novemberand the young Belgian pop revelation Alice on the roof. Their contribution is such that it also allows this musical film to reach beyond the intended younger audience and enchant older viewers with its brilliant performances.

Graphic design comes with courtesy Paul Jadouldirector of the short film Totems and co-founder of Enclume Studios, which is also involved in the project. The film’s story and songs are written by Arnaud Demuynck, who co-directed the film with his usual partner in crime Remi Durin (who previously collaborated with him on the short TV movie Carrot perfume and which we also owe the short films The licorice and Grand Loup & Petit Loup).

Yuku and Himalayan flower is produced by La Boîte… Productions (Belgium) together with Les Films du Nord (France), Artemis Productions (Belgium), Vivement lundi! (France) and Nadasdy Film (Switzerland). The film is sold worldwide by New Europe Film Sales.

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