Ernest is a one-bear band, a street musician. Celestine is an orphan, who sits up in her dormitory drawing pictures of bears by candlelight while The Grey One, the mouse matron tells tales about scary bearys. She is an apprentice dentist as are her dormmates, and they are charged with finding teeth to work on. Through the calamities of fables, including a well-placed garbage can, the two meet. Then each creature is kicked out of its respective home, and so they find common cause with one another. They serve each other's needs through friendship wrought from openness and affection with blindness toward stereotypes. In fact, their talents bloom under the friendship in a way that they did not when they were answering to the demands of the clan of each. In turn, they challenge the social mores of the mouse kingdom and the bear den.
Celestine is voiced by Pauline Brunner and Mackenzie Foy, not squeaky but soft and sweet. Ernest is voiced by Forest Whitaker and Lambert Wilson, a bit gruff. Among the other American voices in the cast are Lauren Bacall as The Grey One, Paul Giamatti as the Rat Judge, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally and her husband Nick Offerman, plus Jeffrey Wright. The words are simple French (we're talking about a bear and a mouse here -- they barely made it out of French 101), but without a single subtitle, the film would be understandable.
The animated film was written by Daniel Pennac, based on a book by Gabrielle Vincent. Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner direct this gentle, French cartoon. The scene of the orphans bashing each other with bolsters is energetic and engaging, and the courtroom scenes are minimally judgey. "Ernest and Celestine" presents itself in soft pastels as Ernest and Celestine weather a winter, and snowflakes fall around them. The clouds are cotton candy.
"Ernest and Celestine" is a chance to see what other countries besides America and other companies besides Pixar and Disney are doing with animation these days. It is well worth getting animated over. "Ernest and Celestine" is adorable.