Anyone who brings an animated film to the cinemas in the run-up to the Christmas holidays can usually count on a nice return. Sure, during the holidays most people have other things to do, but since the kids are off for two weeks, there are still enough days left to catch a movie. And because the weather is usually chilly, wet and cold, that’s a very tempting idea for many parents too. In addition to the large (Hollywood) studios, smaller production companies are also trying to get their share at this time of the year. One of those hijackers on the coast is the French TAT Productions, which was founded in 2000 by the brothers Eric and Jean-François Tosti and David Alaux and gained international fame with ‘The Jungle Bunch’, the animated series that won the trio an International Emmy Award. yielded. The 2017 film of the same name was the first feature film the studio produced; this attracted more than 700,000 visitors in France and became the fourth most viewed French film production of that year worldwide. At TAT they have high expectations of the second full-length animated film, released in the Netherlands under the title “Willy on the unknown planet” (2019).
The little boy Willy is on a space mission with his parents when a meteor shower throws a spanner in the works. Willy’s father and mother have to make a very difficult decision to save their son: they have to let him go. The space capsule in which Willy is playing detaches from the mothership and sets course for the nearest planet. This seems wonderfully a planet where a lot of life can be found and where people can survive just fine. Although it is difficult for little Willy to acclimatize: the creatures that live here, for example, are quite remarkable. Who are his friends and who better to walk around with a big bow? And which berries, plants and fruits can he eat and which not? He does not like eating only canned broccoli puree (from the stock in the capsule). Fortunately, he has the clever (but also a little know-it-all) robot BUCK that helps him survive. But of course you can’t give love to such an ingenious pile of steel, so if Willy misses his parents, he can’t go to them. So it’s a good thing that he quickly makes friends with the cutest creature that roams this unknown planet. He decides to call this orange wad, which looks a bit like a wagging puppy, Flash. The three of them discover this wonderful planet, its flora and fauna and… its dangers.
Becoming a space traveler may be a dream for many small children. “Willy on the Unknown Planet” will put them both feet on the ground: there are also less pleasant sides to life as an astronaut. Getting separated from your parents is just about the biggest nightmare for an average six-year-old. There is of course a sea of possibilities for an animation studio to exploit the emotions that come with it. But the Tosti brothers do not let us feel Willy’s loss. In fact, Willy seems to settle without too much difficulty in the fact that he has been snatched from his parents. Maybe he will never see them again, how bad must that be? Apparently not so according to the Tostis. Maybe we’ve been too spoiled with emotions in animated movies that we now expect to see it in every movie? The fact is that the impact of the story is modest due to the lack of those feelings and that the characters do not get the depth they might deserve. Nor is it original or funny. What remains is a light-hearted, colorful children’s adventure that is especially fun because of the bizarre design of the unknown planet. Strange creatures, giant insects, vegetation in crazy shapes and imaginative landscapes; and all in colors that would not look out of place in an average candy store. The littlest ones will probably still enjoy the exuberant color and shape palette, but there is less to enjoy for the watching adult.