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Saturday Morning Cartoon Club: Moomin (1990)

The Moomins
mean different things to different people. First created by Finn author and artist Tove Jansson in 1945 the lovable creatures that look sort of like furry hippos, they have gone on to feature in prose books as well as comic strips and several animated series and movies. They have proved to be enduringly popular and have a following all around the world, particularly in the UK and Japan.

The latest animated incarnation, the currently running Moominvalley brings the characters to life in CG for the first time, but previous generations grew up with them animated in different mediums. The first series to make it to UK screens was a stop-motion version (a German, Polish and Austrian coproduction) called The Moomins that ran between 1977 and 1982. In the UK it aired on TV between 1983 and 1988.

Older millennials might just about remember that version (faintly) but they're much more likely to remember the 2D animated series that aired on Children's BBC a few years later. The series was the second adaptation of the characters from Japan- the first version aired in 1969-1970. The newer series however was a Japanese co-production with Finnish and Dutch studios and aired simply as Moomin. The 90s anime was much more faithful to the original in both character and stories than the 69 series was, with many of the plots taken straight from the books.

As with every incarnation the series takes place in the fictional Moominvalley and follows the Moomin family. The son of the family is known simply as Moomin (or some time Moomintroll) with his parents known as Moomin Papa and Moomin Mama. There are many unanswered questions about naming conventions in Moomin culture (such as did Moomin's parents have to change their names when their son was born?) but that's for another time.

The series was a series of gentle adventures that saw the family and their friends, who include Moomin's best friend Snuffkin, his girlfriend Snorkmaiden, his surrogate annoying younger Little My and whatever the heck Sniff is supposed to be. Stories see them deal with the valley flooding, adopt a baby dragon and encounter weird and wonderful creatures like the Hattifatners, The Hobgoblin and The Groke.

Several of these stories are also adapted in Moominvalley but the anime version tells each story across several episodes, often ending in a cliffhanger.

The 90s series is apparently the only animated adaptation to get Jansson's stamp of approval- although to be fair Moominvalley was at a disadvantage what with her having been dead since 2001 and all. The 1969 anime had been infamous for making changes to the original and Jansson was reportedly not happy. The 1990 incarnation however was the most successful animated Moomin yet, airing for 104 episodes and being shown in at least 124 countries.

Moomin was dubbed in English and shown on the BBC and later repeated on Boomerang in the UK. The British made dub is a curious product of its time and features several actors who will be familiar to those who have seen any of the anime dubs made by Manga Video at the time, most notably including Toni Barry (Leona in Dominion Tank Police) as Little My.

Despite there being a ready-made English version (made with vaguely American accents to make it more salable internationally) the series never aired in the US aside from some screening on a local network in Hawaii where it screened as Tales of Moominvalley.

Fortunately, we no longer need to rely on the whims of TV networks anymore, in the UK, US or anywhere else, and episodes are freely (and legally) available via the official Moomin YouTube channel. Just don't blame me when that theme song gets stuck in your head...

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