Animated musical cartoon: little girl from boarding school becomes lost
Based on characters and settings created by author/artist Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939 in his book "Madeline", this is a wonderful 75-minute musical feature for very young children. Our two-year-old girl loves it even though the plot is sophisticated enough to please a ten-year-old. The voice talents of Christopher Plummer (as the narrator) and Lauren Bacall are superb. The characters speak and sing with charming Parisian accents, often breaking into a little genuine French. Like the book, the narration is in verse. The drawings are certainly cleaner than Bemelmans' originals yet retain their stylized charm, including the famous scenes of actual places throughout Paris and the "twelve little girls in two straight lines" led by Miss Clavel.
The story is a new one created 60 years after the book's publication. Its central theme is "family". Unlike the book, here little Madeline seems to be an orphan and longs for a family of her own. Hoping to find long-lost relatives she undergoes a dangerous adventure in which she learns that some of the essential attributes of family may be found among friends with whom one breaks bread. The resourceful and brave Madeline is helped by old friends and helps new ones in turn.
Do not confuse this film with a series of 20-minute cartoons made about a decade earlier. Although also narrated by Christopher Plummer, these shorts are cheap Saturday-morning affairs without merit in plot, animation or music. By contrast "Madeline Lost in Paris" is a keeper.
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