In this Annecy Best Feature–winning adaptation of France’s famed Le petit Nicolas comic book series, a mischievous character meets the men who brought him to life.
Simple line sketches fill with colour as ideas blossom, and soft-hued watercolours render a Paris from a bygone era. Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be astutely envisions what happens when the art meets his artists, weaving young Nicholas’s escapades with the backstories of cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé and writer René Goscinny, who conjured his world. Blending biography and origin story, the film reveals how tales of the character’s carefree youth – pranks at summer camp and being grossed out by girls – emerged from his creators’ experiences of war and troubled childhoods.
Sempé and Goscinny (the latter of whom also co-created Astérix) met in 1950s Paris, where they dreamed up the charming figure that would become the subject of a much-loved series of comics. Co-written by Goscinny’s daughter, Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s film – which has also taken home accolades from Bucheon and Cambridge, and was nominated at Cannes and France’s César Awards – employs two distinct yet equally memorable animation styles to collide ‘reality’ and representation. But it’s more than a nostalgia-tinted reprisal of the comics: it reveals the power of the imagination to challenge the imperfections of the world.
“Told with warm affection and wild invention, it successfully combines biopic, origin story and Little Nicholas adventures into an irresistibly warmhearted delight … Sweet, charming and very entertaining.”– Screen Daily