Friends Ernest and Celestine return to theaters in “A Trip to Gibberitia,” an adventure against tyranny for all ages.

Created by Belgian author Gabrielle Vincent, the characters of Ernest the bear and Celestine the mouse have been the center of several books, adapted into an award-winning 2012 film, Ernest & Celestine, and a 52-episode television series called Ernest & Celestine: The Collection. It makes sense, then, that the characters would return in a new adventure, this time delving a little deeper into the musically-inclined/grumpus Ernest. Whereas the first film is a tale of unexpected friendship and commonality that brings two disparate species together, co-directors Jean-Christophe Roger’s and Julien Chheng’s Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia (Ernest et Célestine: Le Voyage en Charabie) explores family bound by blood and by choice and the perils of malicious law.


L-R: Ernest voiced by Lambert Wilson and Celestine as voiced by Pauline Brunner in ERNEST & CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA. Photo courtesy of GKids Films.

After an accident leads to Ernest’s prize Stradibearius violin breaking, Ernest (voiced by Lambert Wilson) would rather go without it than return to his hometown of Gibberitia to have it fixed. However, he and Celestine (voiced by Pauline Brunner) do go to the place Ernest proclaims is a musical haven only to discover that all but one note is outlawed. Even worse, this is because Ernest’s father didn’t take it well when the young bear left home to become a troubadour. As the pair try to seek out the only bear capable of fixing the violin, they find themselves sandwiched between Ernest’s judge father and the mysterious musical resistance fighter EFG. The pair once brought peace to their respective lives through their friendship, can they do it again?

As with the first film, the visual elements of Gibberitia are positively lovely in the way that they replicate the hand-drawn style of the original books. The absence of fluid motion present in recent animated works like Elemental may seem antiqued on the surface, however, it speaks to a certain simplicity in thought and conceit. This isn’t to suggest that the animation is in any way of lesser quality, merely that it conjures that youthful period in our lives in which specificity and realism aren’t as necessary as the wonder evoked within us. In some scenes, the color stops around the edges as though the watercolors reached the edge of the page and the artist didn’t want them to bleed over. In others, one can almost see the brush strokes as they reach from one end of the frame to the other. There’s delicacy and intention in each frame, conveyed by brush and pen stroke, the colors and details less distinct in the distance and in sharp clarity in the foreground. The sensation of observing something with the appearance of being handmade makes one almost immediately charmed and ready for whatever adventure awaits. The surprising thing is how the story by Guillaume Mautalent (A Man is Dead) and Sébastien Oursel (A Man is Dead), with collaboration from Jean Regnaud (The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales) and built off the story idea from Agnès Bidaud (Ernest & Celestine’s Winter) and producer Didier Brunner (The Secret of Kells), goes far harder than it may intend.


Celestine as voiced by Pauline Brunner in ERNEST & CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA. Photo courtesy of GKids Films.

In the original film, the basis of tension is that of Celestine who dreams of befriending a bear while being forced to seek out bear teeth to be used by the aging mice in her community and Ernest whose musical exploits don’t exactly keep him well-feed or in the good graces of his neighbors. Through their meeting, each gets exactly what they need and, in the process, change the way their community views the relationship between bears and mice. In Gibberitia, their friendship is challenged because Ernest doesn’t want to open up about why he doesn’t want to return home and the fallout from running away from one’s problems. Interestingly, if Ernest hadn’t runaway in the first place, the problem ailing his home wouldn’t exist, yet the opportunity for growth wouldn’t exist either. This places before the audience two different and equally interesting ideas to explore. In the first, Gibberitia post-Ernest is a place wherein all the bears are only allowed to play one-note and only one-note, with all others made illegal and punishable with prison time. This was done by Ernest’s father because he refused to become a judge, the rejection mentioned in passing in the first film but not explored until now. This action is one of government overstep, to declare any musical expression other than that approved is against the law. So either Ernest and Celestine can become freedom fighters or they can allow the oppression to continue. Through Ernest’s and Celestine’s individual journeys in deciding how to react, the audience is placed in a low-threat situation to explore the dangerous ideology of fascism and how it can start from a well-intentioned place and turn into something crooked, all because no one was willing to have a conversation. On the other side of things, if Ernest had stayed, not only would Celestine’s life be vastly different (still be lamenting the desire to befriend a bear), but their town might still be segregated and the futures of all in Gibberitia might be musical but not necessarily merry. The script doesn’t dig into this too deeply, but it presents things cleanly so that younger viewing audiences can pick up on the difficulty present in the divergent choices.

Where the film falters is in the denouement due to its strange similarity to the first. As a sequel, there’s a certain amount of tendency to utilize what works and, perhaps, this is more a tribute to the style of the books and/or series, but the speed and method of wrapping up all of the storylines feels rushed and less satisfying. In the first film, Ernest is before the mouse Judge looking for Celestine, while Celestine is before the bear Judge looking for Ernest, neither willing (technically not able) to declare where the other is located. It’s a declaration of trust between the two, signifying that despite the trials and troubles, a true bond has been formed between these unlikely friends. In Gibberitia, there’s another test of friendship, another bout of legal trouble, and, while there’s no literal fire the protagonists will save their antagonists from and earn their freedom, there is a metaphorical one. It’s cute, it’s adorable, and, as one would expect from a film centering music, a toe-tapping beat. But it’s in possession of such similarity to feel less fresh and unique than it did in 2012.


L-R: Celestine as voiced by Pauline Brunner and Ernest voiced by Lambert Wilson in ERNEST & CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA. Photo courtesy of GKids Films.

Animation so rarely gets its due from audiences. It takes something like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and its 2023 follow-up Across the Spider-verse which seemingly breaks conventions while simultaneously utilizing the visual language of the media it adapts to create a technological break-through to get folks’ attention. Or it needs to be released by one of the various Mouse House studios. In reality, there are so many places from which great animated stories emerge, those capable of moving audiences with their visual design, performances, and thematic ideas. In this case, Gibberitia is likely to delight audiences of all ages for the ways in which its silliness doesn’t speak down to us, but encourages us to get silly, too. To remember that through laughter, through art, through music, and friendship, no tyranny may stand. There’s power and brilliance in that. And it’s right where audiences may least expect.

In theaters September 1st, 2023.

For more information, head to the official GKids Films Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia webpage.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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