I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about a recent favourite animated film, Ernest & Celestine. The animation is based on the famous children’s book series featuring Ernest & Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent. It explores the unlikely friendship between bear Ernest and mouse Celestine and their Bonnie and Clyde like adventures.
For the purposes of this exercise I will be considering how typography, colour, image and composition are used to reflect the nature of the film in it’s film poster and trailer.
The script for this film and subsequent sound recordings were originally produced in French and then dubbed for the European market. This means that several different film posters were produced for the different regions and audio languages the film was being released in. I want to compare the posters to see how they each portray the film.
The poster opposite was designed for an English speaking market or audience. It is reminiscent in several ways of or makes a visual reference to the wanted posters of the wild west albeit with a more modern twist. The font used for the red text at the top of the poster is similar in form to the slab serifs used widely in America during the 1800’s to early 1900’s. But is softened by rounded curves and edges – this softening I think helps visually remind the viewer the film was created for a younger audience. I think it helps stop the film looking too much like the more mature wild west films of a violent or graphic nature.
The use of a different bold or slab font, sans serif for the title is bold and eye catching, drawing the eye in. The textured almost ink like effect over the text also is visual reminder to the printed posters, which would’ve been printed using wooden lettering blocks or letterpress printing methods.
Even the texture, creases, seen on the edges of the poster give an aged appearance and link again to a displayed wanted poster. Another visual element that adds to the ‘wanted poster’ look is of course the inclusion of the characters in front of a height chart and posing with their names, akin to a police photographing process. This visual element links strongly to an element of the storyline as both characters are chased by the police really for the absurd crime of being friendly with each other (bears are not supposed to befriend mice and visa versa). The use of watercolour paint for the illustration of the two characters also links to the nature or style of the animation featured in the film. This medium also allows the colours to appear muted almost washed out slightly which sits nicely with the faded nature of the rest of the poster.
My only query or misgiving with the poster design is that it does give the impression the film will focus heavily on some kind of criminal activity or capers. Whilst the film does touch on this, there are large parts of the film given to the development of a beautiful friendship between the lead characters, and some wonderfully illustrated scenes/backgrounds. This particular poster does little to give a nod to that side of the film.
However posters made for other language releases do hint at the other elements of the story…
The French poster opposite makes much more of a feature of the friendship and interaction between the two lead characters. Having the two characters fill most of the space, takes the central focus. Typography wise there’s no tag line, or lots of different fonts, it’s kept simple, the font used for the title appears hand lettered rather than typed – perhaps painted in watercolour – linking to the style of the film. Colour wise the poster keeps things to a limited palette, a muted red, blues/greys, brown – it all evokes a soft, perhaps sweet tale. It doesn’t really evoke the adventure of the film or any of the chase elements. But it does strongly link to the style of the children’s books which the film is based upon. This seems to make more sense when you take into consideration that the books were more widely known to a European than an UK audience.
In the poster to the left, produced for a German speaking audience there a lots of similarities to the French poster. Composition wise the only different is the addition of some awards and recommendations, and a slightly larger off centre title. There is some slight variation colour wise, the colours are more vivid, with a emphasis on the blue and red rather than grey. I think this lifts the mood of the poster, perhaps does the fun, beauty of the film a bit more justice. It’s also noticeable that having kept the hand lettered, water colour title they have changed the colour to black which gives more contrast against the white of the background. Overall the poster is a bit bolder, punchier, but retains a softness due to the watercolour style.
The UK Trailer:
I think this trailer does the film justice. Visually there’s little left to the imagination in terms of the trajectory of the story which sometimes isn’t a good thing. Here though I think it’s okay, they’ve still left enough of the film to be seen, allowing for the real beauty of the visuals to be experienced only by choosing to watch the whole film.