Moomins land in France in 3D film

Stellan Skarsgard, Max von Sydow lend voices to project

In 1945, after World War II, Finnish artist Tove Jansson sat down and wrote a "naive and innocent" children's story about a family of bohemian, slightly trippy trolls that looked like big white hippopotami.

The book was a flop, but Jansson kept writing her whimsical tales, using her family of eccentric artists as inspiration for the "Moomins."

Sixty-five years later, these large nosed, mouthless creatures are Finland's biggest pop culture export. Jansson's books have been translated into 40 languages; there are Moomin comics, TV series, stage plays and even one Moomin-themed opera. In Finland and Moomin-mad Japan, theme parks and merchandising shops are dedicated to the residents of Moomin valley.

With this year's Cannes world premiere of "Moomins and the Comet Chase 3D" -- the first Moomin, indeed the first Scandinavian, 3D feature film -- the Moomins craze is about to go global.

Produced by Oy Filmkompaniet in Finland, with NonStop Entertainment handling world sales, the material for "Moomins and the Comet Chase" actually comes from a 1970s television cartoon version of the books. The stop-motion series, a Polish-Austrian co-production, was a cult hit around the world -- except, bizarrely, in Scandinavia, where a copyright dispute kept the show off the air for the past 20 years.
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A who's who of Scandi A-listers has signed up for the voice cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Max von Sydow, Helena Mattsson and father-and-son team Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard.

"The Moomins are so well known in Scandinavia, all the best talent wanted to be involved," says producer Tom Carpelan. "When I spoke to Stellan, he was reciting lines from the Moomins books back to me over the phone."