Ernest and Celestine- English v French?


– Feb 16, 2014- Sara Barton

The Oscar-nominated animated film, “Ernest and Celestine”(2012) opens in theaters February 28, and encores at this years, New York International Children’s Film. The film is being released in both, it’s original French version (with subtitles), as well as in English. The question on parent’s minds, “Which version do I take my child to see?”. Samurai Beat Radio is here to help. Thanks to GKIDS, we’ve had the privilege of viewing both versions. Here’s what we recommend.

The Original- (French with English subtitles):
The original is best recommended for: bi-lingual, fluent to semi-fluent french speakers, just learning French or lovers of French cinema. It’s rare pleasure to watch a French-speaking animated film here in the US. Although several French animated films have debuted at NYICFF, the last French animated film to grace US theaters was The Triplets of Belleville in 2003. While the film does have English subtitles, it’s can be distracting from the gorgeous animation, especially for young children.

The English Version
This is best recommended for: non- french speakers, as well as young children, especially those under the age of 7; who might have a hard time with reading subtitles. Yet, you won’t be missing out when you see the English version. GKIDS has done an outstanding job dubbing the film. It features an all-star voice-cast, with Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy and child actress, Mackenzie Foy. Unlike the English translations of most foreign animated films, the French to English translations is 99.9% accurate. However, Mackenzie Foy’s, English Celestine differs from her French counterpart (voiced by Pauline Brunner) she may lose her adorable french sassy style; (it’s a cultural thing that’s very difficult for an American to capture), but nonetheless, she still does a fantastic job. Celestine remains cute and adorable.


Regardless, both versions of Ernest and Celestine are excellent in their own right. Whether it’s in French or English, your family will enjoy the magical experience that the film has to offer.


A Letter to Momo- The Short Review

3/17/2012- S.Barton

A Letter to Momo (Momo E No Tegami) is the second film from Hiroyuki Okiura, director of the internationally acclaimed Jin-Roh. The film took seven years of planning, writing, story-boarding; along with a powerhouse animation team, including Toshiyuki Inoue (Akira), Ei Inoue (The Cat Returns), Takeshi Honda (Evangelion 2:0), Tetsuya Nishio (Ghost In the Shell 2). It’s an exquisitely hand-drawn animated film that is well worth the wait.

The last time Momo saw her father they had a fight. All she has left to remember him by is an incomplete letter, simply saying “Dear Momo”. Momo and her mother move from bustling city of Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Momo searches for closure as tries to figure out her father’s last words. She soon discovers goblins living in her attic; a trio of mischievous spirits who have been assigned to watch over her. They cause her nothing but trouble, and she’s the only one who can see them.

The subject of loss is difficult to convey on film, let alone in an animated one. Hiroyuki Okiura approaches it in a way that that is delicate and heartwarming. The goblins playful antics are charming, and provide a much-needed sense of humor; making A Letter to Momo an instant classic.

Cinderella Moon Premieres at New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival

March 5, 2012- S.Barton

Cinderella Moon, directed by Richard Bowen made its US premiere at New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF). The film is based on the earliest known version of Cinderella, the Chinese tale, Ye Xian from 768 AD. They’re several versions of Cinderella that exist around the world.

The most famous version of Cinderella is The Little Glass Slipper, written in 1697, by French author Charles Perrault. Perrault is known for The Tales of Mother Goose (Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye), which include: Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty. His works laid the foundation for the modern fairytale genre. The Little Glass Slipper, possess a magically, “Je nes sais quoi.” The invention of the fairy godmother, pumpkin carriage and glass slippers; is what sets it apart from the rest.

Cinderella Moon is a shot in beautiful the Southwest Yunnan province. It’s the story of Mei Mei, an intelligent woman and gifted potter, who refuses to give in the chauvinistic world around her. Unfortunately, her life is a tragic sonnet. At age 5, Mei Mei’s mother dies in childbirth. The kingdom is plagued by famine; forcing her step-mother to make tough decisions to assure the families survival. Mei Mei’s life is thrown into further turmoil when her father dies. The situation turns drastic when the moon becomes stuck in the sky. The kingdom is out of balance, unless celestial harmony is restored, the world will end.

Richard Bowen cleverly crafted this fairytale into a smart contemporary think piece on modern gender issues. This is just the surface. Bowen pushes the envelope by examining questions that we as human being spend a lifetime trying to answer: Where is my place in the world? What is my purpose? Who am I meant to be?

It’s a film about finding your place in the world by being yourself. Mei Mei is told that by being true to herself, she’ll find her place in the world and also help restore balance to the kingdom. It’s simple, but also impossible- the movie’s unofficial theme. Cinderella Moon is a masterpiece, it possesses a depth and richness, unlike its predecessors. Like Charles Perrault, Richard Bowen has laid the foundation for a new fairytale film genre.

Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short)-Review

sailor moon the movieDecember 10, 2011- Sara Barton

It was the shot heard around the Moon Kingdom, as Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short) made its debut on YouTube. On December 4th, it premiered on the big screen at Webster Hall in New York City. The hits have been non-stop.

The twenty-minute short film is the fan creation of Roll & Rixy Productions (Kris Woodside and Eric James), the creators of the YouTube series, Sailor Moon Abridged. It has taken 4 years of planning, and fundraising to get their idea off the ground and it paid off.

The film’s professional quality, modernization of the Sailor Moon universe, and creative elements have gained media recognition. The reviews are pouring in, including MTV Geek, Otaku USA,, and prominent members’ of the anime community such as

Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short), draws its inspiration from the manga, the anime, PGSM*, and the Sailor V universe. It’s a mix of what fans are familiar with, while still being unique and original.

A unique aspect of this film is Sailor Moon’s film name, Bunny. For those who grew up watching Sailor Moon in France, know that this is the French name translation. It’s intriguing that the producers chose this translation, instead of the original Japanese name: Usagi, or the English translation: Serena. This choice is a reflection of the globalization Sailor Moon; that it’s become more than just a Japanese series.

The spectacular costume designs by Kris Woodside, (also a talented artist); are what bring this film to life. Her inspiration draws from Naoko Takeuchi early art of Sailor Moon, but Kris has clearly made them her own. Sailor Moon’s silver hair is from Naoko Takeuchi’s original concept art, but the silver eye mask is clearly Kris’s. [Kris Woodside designs can be viewed on the film’s official Facebook page.]

The directing and acting is superb; the producers did an admirable job with a limited budget. Avery Danielle is adorable as Bunny/Sailor Moon. Nick Uhas is sexy as Prince Endymion/Tuxedo Mask. Liv Rose is the embodiment of Queen Beryl. Kris Woodside and Eric James are the comedic relief as the roles of Naru (Molly) and Melvin (Gurio).

The film goes the extra mile by having its own soundtrack. The opening credit song is, “Story”, by Nishi, and the closing credit song, “Where Are You Now”, is written and performed by Consider Me Dead. The choice of an original score was debated; yet gives the movie its professionalism and complements the modernization of the Sailor Moon universe.

Sailor Moon the Movie (Independent Short) is a masterpiece that has earned the right to sit alongside the original Sailor Moon cannon. Its artistic concept of the Sailor Moon deserves to be made into a feature film. The production team hopes that they will be able to raise enough money needed to make it a reality. The twenty-minute short is a brief glimpse of film’s creative potential, then Sailor Moon the Movie (Feature Film) will be a sure-fire hit.

Now! “In the name of the Moon, Enjoy the show!”

*PGSM- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is the Japanese live-action series that ran on Japanese TV from 2003-2004.


Ponyo makes a splash at NYICFF special pre-screening


August 12, 2009 :: Sara Barton

August 9- This lucky SBR correspondent was able to get tickets to New York International Children’s Film Festival, (NYICFF), special pre-release screening of Ponyo; the latest film from legendary filmmaker/animator Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is the creator of such films as: “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”. NYICFF stayed true to their mission; to distribute quality cinema to children of all ages, they premiered Ponyo in style. It’s not a premiere unless it’s an NYICFF premiere! For all those who haven’t been to an NYICFF screening it is customary for staff to throw prizes into the audience; this time it was a limited edition Ponyo toy; if you didn’t get one you can always stop by Kinokuniya bookstore (located on 41st and 6th ave) to pick one up.  It was truly a joyous occasion, to add even more joy, now on to the film.

Ponyo is a visually stunning and enchanting masterpiece from the first moment it premieres on screen. The ocean scenery is outstanding, proving hand-drawn animation isn’t a lost art. Miyazaki’s films are well known for their highly stylized artistry and this film is no exception. The exquisite oceanic-pastel style compliments the sophisticated story-telling.  Looks like “Finding Nemo” has some competition.

Ponyo is a little mermaid-esq tale; inspired by the original Hans Christian Anderson version. It’s the story of a curious little goldfish who stumbles on to a small cliffside town, she is rescued by a boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas); who affectionately names her Ponyo  Noah Cyrus). Touched by his vow to protect her, Ponyo is determined to become human, and thus the adventure begins. Like all classic Miyazaki films, the movie centers on the theme of friendship, the power of love, and strong messages about the environment.  Memorable scenes include Ponyo’s hilarious obsession with ham (my favorite), and the heartwarming family dynamic between Sosuke and his mom, Lisa (Tina Fey)

Voiced by the talented cast of: Cate Blanchett (GranMamare), Noah Cyrus (Ponyo), Matt Damon (Koichi), Tina Fey (Lisa), Frankie Jonas (Sosuke), Kurt Knutsson (the Newscaster), Betty White (Yoshie), Liam Neeson (Fujimoto), Jennessa Rose (Kumiko), Lily Tomlin (Toki) and Cloris Leachman (Noriko). Ponyo is an artistic masterpiece and a must-see film.

Ponyo hits theaters this Friday, August 14th. Go!!!!


Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki; United States production directors, John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, and Peter Sohn; English-language screenplay by Melissa Mathison, translated from the original Japanese by Jim Hubbert; music by Joe Hisaishi; produced by Toshio Suzuki; released by Walt Disney Studios. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is rated G.

Studio Ghibli:

Disney’s Official Ponyo website:

New York International Children’s Film Festival: