This morning, I finally got the chance to go and see the animated Ballerina film originally released around Christmas 2016 – it even meant getting up early (for me) on a Saturday morning to catch the special kids screening at the Odeon, who were screening it again as part of a half term promotion. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a film that combined more of my favourite things: Paris, ballet and the incredibly talented Maddie Ziegler, who’s danced in so many of Sia’s music videos. For that very reason, it could so easily have failed to live up to the huge weight of expectation…
The premise of two children escaping from an orphanage to pursue their dreams in Paris (Felicie as a ballerina and Victor as an engineer) is undoubtedly quite old-fashioned, but it’s also pretty classic, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want to see these two French kids succeed against all the odds?! They have hope, determination and natural flair, if nothing else in the world but each other.
Their journey is uplifting and Paris is vividly reimagined – if unbelievably quiet – with the grand staircase of the Opera Garnier looking every bit as magical on screen as in reality. Even the little room where the ballerinas take their lessons and the dancers’ dalliance on the rooftop recall every pic I’ve ever seen of them. Of course, the Eiffel Tower gets a look in too, though it is still being built at the time the film is set (1884). It is impossible to imagine the Parisian landscape without it now and hardly surprising that Victor should aspire to follow in the footsteps of an engineer like M. Eiffel!
Francophiles will inevitably pick up on the emblematic triple spiral motif on Felice’s music box, the plethora of dolmen and the apples being exported to Paris, all of which reveal that the orphanage where Felice and Victor escaped from is in Brittany, even before it is explicitly mentioned. They probably won’t miss those cheeky plugs for Repetto either! Regardless, Ballerina is an étoile.
Ballerina (Leap!) features the voices of Elle Fanning, Maddie Ziegler and Carly Rae Jepsen.