Arthur and the Invisibles (Arthur and the Minimoys in non-English-speaking territories — Arthur et les Minimoys in French-speaking countries) is a part-animated, part-live action feature film adaptation of the 2002 children's book Arthur et les minimoys / Arthur and the Minimoys, and the 2003 sequel Arthur et la cité interdite / Arthur and the Forbidden City, written by filmmaker Luc Besson, who also directed the film. It premiered in limited release in France on November 29, 2006, and received wide releases in a number of countries in the following weeks. In the United States, it opened on December 29, 2006, for one week in Los Angeles, California, with a wider release on January 12, 2007 and it was released in the United Kingdom on February 2, 2007. The film was MGM's first theatrically-released animated film since 1996's All Dogs Go to Heaven 2.
With a budget of €65,000,000, Arthur and the Invisibles was briefly the most expensive French film production until surpassed by Astérix at the Olympic Games.
In 1960, 10-year-old protagonist Arthur is living with his grandmother in a quiet country house. His grandfather Archibald has recently gone missing and he sees little of his parents. His grandmother entertains him by reading stories to him of his grandfather's adventures in Africa. One of these stories is about the friendship of the tall, Maasai-like tribe called the Bogo Matassalai with the Minimoys — tooth-sized, elfin beings they believe to be their counterparts. After Archibald had helped the Bogo Matassalai, says the story, they and the Minimoys had given him a large amount of rubies in a show of thanks for helping them. After returning home, Archibald brought the Minimoys with him and lent them his garden as their home. According to the story, he gave the Minimoys the rubies to look after them until he needed them. Arthur has become enamoured of a picture of Selenia, the princess of the Minimoys.
It's shown that Arthur's grandmother has been given a two-day deadline to pay a large sum of money to a building developer named Davido, who has bought her mortgage from the bank and plans to evict the two. Arthur therefore decides to find the rubies in order to pay off the debt. After stumbling across various clues written by his grandfather, Arthur finds the key to the Minimoys' world. He accidentally puts his grandmother into a deep sleep by dropping sleeping drops into her water and as she begins to snore, he continues. He is met in the garden by the "Bogo Matassalai", who show Arthur how to get into the Minimoys' world by shrinking down to their size and becoming a Minimoy himself. This is done by means of a telescope and the power of a shining full moon. When Arthur is underground with the Minimoys, he learns of a danger to the little people's future, posed by the plans of Maltazard, the leader of an army of mosquito-riding rebels named 'Seides' living in nearby "Necropolis", who plan to conquer the Minimoys by flooding their city. Maltazard is said to have been a Minimoy war hero corrupted by a seductive weevil, by whom he has a son called Darkos. After his corruption, Malthazar became a warlord known as the "Evil M", keeping Archibald as his prisoner and the rubies as his throne.
Arthur, reflecting his legendary British namesake, draws a sacred sword from its recess, which he then uses to protect his new friends from Malthazar's soldiers. The king gives permission for Arthur to travel to Necropolis, sending with him the princess Selenia and her younger brother. Armed with Arthur's new sword – the use of which they share – the trio embark. En route to Necropolis, they are numerous times put in danger by Maltazard's soldiers, who are making plans for the coming flood. During their travel Selenia reveals that at her age (which corresponds to Arthur's), she must find a husband within two days. Over the course of the journey, Arthur comes to fall in love with Selenia, a fact she sees and uses to her advantage.
Eventually, the questors arrive in Necropolis, where the stubbornly independent Selenia takes the sword and leaves the others. Before doing so, she kisses Arthur, marking him as her husband and the future king. Selenia then confronts Maltazard alone. Maltazard wishes the first kiss of the princess to restore his original beauty; after learning she has already kissed Arthur and she can no longer give him her powers, he decides to kill her. She is captured and incarcerated in a cell where she finds her companions, who have also been seized.
While in prison, they find Arthur's grandfather, who like Arthur has become a Minimoy. This transformation has altered the proportions of his body, giving him a larger head, thinner limbs, long ears, and broad extremities. He has been teaching his knowledge to Maltazard in exchange for food. Selenia feels defeated, but Arthur comforts her.
Maltazard allows them to escape 3 minutes ahead of the flood, which they do by using a clockwork car that Arthur possessed, in his human form, until Davido kicked it down the drain.
During the adventure, Arthur's crush on Selenia has been supplemented by comradeship, as well as by her own affection for him. When Arthur learns of a Minimoy custom stating that newlyweds should not kiss for the second time until after ten moons, Selenia decides she does not wish to wait and gives Arthur a long, passionate kiss before he returns to his human form. He now has an hour wherein to save the Minimoys from the flood. Archibald returns with him to the human world, and to human form, and is reunited with Arthur's grandmother.
Arthur, with the help of a royal advisor's long-lost son, Miro, redirects the flood to Necropolis by dropping a ball into Necropolis, which smashes drinking straws used to direct the water and blocks the tunnel it was heading through. The Minimoys are saved from the flood; Necropolis is flooded instead. Maltazard abandons the plan, his army, and his son, and flees. The force of the water ejects the rubies and Miro.
Arthur and Archibald pay Davido with one ruby; he tries to take all, but the Bogo Matassalai capture him and give him to the authorities (scene deleted in the U.S. edition).
The story closes with the vows spoken by Arthur in his human form to Selenia, who sits high up on a branch in a tree, to wait patiently until the time is right for them to be together.
The ending credits then proceed, alongside scenes of every significant character (as well as the director, Luc Besson) appearing in Minimoy form to bow.
Characters and cast
- Arthur: Played by Freddie Highmore, is the main protagonist. Arthur is 10 years old and largely lives with his grandmother because his parents have little time to spend with him; a fact Arthur resents. One day, his grandfather mysteriously vanishes; Arthur is determined to find him and the treasure of the Minimoys so that he can pay off the unscrupulous debt-collectors who covet his grandmother's land. He was dubbed by German singer Bill Kaulitz from Tokio Hotel in the German version Arthur und die Minimoys.
- Princess Selenia: Madonna, is the daughter of the King of the Minimoys. Despite appearing haughty and arrogant, and sometimes Bratty spoiled, she is an honorable and caring individual who is determined to protect her people from the evil of Maltazard. She has a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Arthur at first, believing him to be her inferior. However, after he draws the Sword of the Minimoys from the Stone, she comes to respect him. During their journey they fall in love. Selenia is a formidable fighter and possesses great if unexercised intelligence. Was dubbed by French singer Mylène Farmer in the French version "Arthur et les Minimoys", German singer Nena in the German Version "Arthur und die Minimoys" and Finnish Pop singer Paula Vesala from PMMP in the Finnish version.
- Prince Betameche: Jimmy Fallon plays Selenia's 300 year old younger brother. 300 is considered young for a Minimoy. He is a mischievous youth who enjoys teasing his egotistical elder sister.
- Emperor Maltazard: Played by David Bowie. Maltazard (also known as The Evil M, Maltazard the Evil or Malthazar the Cursed) is the corrupt emperor of the Forbidden City of Necropolis, moreover the main villain of the film. With his army of minions, the Seides, he is determined to conquer the land of the Minimoys and claim Princess Selenia as his queen, as he has rather strong feelings for her. He possesses the treasure of the Minimoys and keeps it in his stronghold in Necropolis, where it forms his throne. Malthazar was once a noble warrior, but because of his pride and lust for power, he turned to the path of evil and betrayed his own people. Although the film refers to him as Malthazar, his name in the book was Malthazard and some film versions refer to him as Maltazard. He was corrupted to the path of evil by a seductive weevil, by which Maltazard fathers a boyish bully named Darkos. Maltazard has oddly coloured eyes, much like David Bowie who voices the character. He is set to reprise his role as the main antagonist in Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard, where he vows to get revenge on Arthur, as the title implies.
- Grandma: Mia Farrow as Arthur's long-suffering grandmother, a major character in the film and book. Grandmother Suchot possesses a dry sense of wit and is very protective of Arthur given the fact that his parents are not there most of the time on account of trying desperately to get new jobs in the wake of the Wall Street Crash. Her husband, Archibald, mysteriously disappeared a few years ago in search of the treasure of the Minimoys.
- Archibald: Arthur's grandfather, who disappeared a few years ago during his quest for the Treasure of the Minimoys. Grandfather Archibald Suchot is played by Ron Crawford. The legal courts have declared him dead, but he is alive in the dungeons of Necropolis. He is a brilliant explorer and adventurer; traits evidently imitated or inherited by Arthur. He teaches the Seides novelties in return for food during his incarceration in Malthazar's dungeons. He is known to the Minimoys as Archibald the Benevolent.
- Max, voice acting by Snoop Dogg, as the leader of the Koolamassai, a race of beings who live near the Seven Lands' Great River. He owns a popular bar and dance club where our heroes hope to hide from Malthazard's minions. Max has kept his tribe free under Malthazar's reign of terror by sheer virtue of the fact his people are the only ones who know how to properly prepare the roots of the candyfruit tree, which the insect-like Seides can't go one day without.
- Ernest Davido (voice acted by Adam LeFevre) is a greedy landowner who presides over and founded the multi-national Davido Corporation, which specializes in property development. Davido is determined to evict Arthur and his grandmother from their land so that he can demolish their home and build flats in their vacated land. He also hopes to obtain the rubies called the Treasure of the Minimoys, of which Archibald had told him during a moment of inebriation. Davido appears emotionally immature. In the face of his supporting role, Davido is a veritable obstacle and secondary villain in the film.
- Prince Darkos: Malthazar's vicious but dim-witted son is played by Jason Bateman. Darkos is the only survivor of seven children whom Malthazar sired through a union with a weevil. Malthazar takes advantage of his son's loyalty by bidding him remain behind when the flood enters Necropolis. In the film he has cat-like eyes, a mouth full of fangs, and speaks with a lisp.
- The King, father of Betameche and Selenia. Voice acting Robert De Niro by as a benevolent and kind ruler of the Minimoys. He is balky when faced by violence and also possessive of his children. He rides atop a large, furry animal called a Gamoul so as to compensate for his diminutive size.
- Rosie Suchot, Arthur's mother, played by Penny Balfour.
- Francis Arthurs Father, played by Doug Rand
- Miro: Harvey Keitel. The royal advisor who helps Arthur save the Minimoys from the flood.
- Mino The son of Miro; Voice acting by Erik Per Sullivan
- Koolamassai played by Anthony Anderson
- Travel Agent: Chazz Palminteri
- Ferryman, voiced by Emilio Estevez
The animation was done by the French company BUF Compagnie, which hired approximately 100 animators, most of them from French animation schools and without any previous experience. Besson wanted a photorealistic environment, and BUF initially used microlenses to film physical environments, but eventually instead used photogrammetry, where a digitized photograph of a real object is manipulated with a computer. Sets were built to 1:3 scale, which allowed the animators to use natural elements, such as plants and grass. While the film did not use motion capture, real actors were used as reference, and recorded with 13 to 14 video cameras, but without the markers used in motion capture. Besson directed their performances. In terms of lip sync with actors' dialog, the French animators could not cope with the English phonemes. For Madonna and David Bowie, a camera was used to record their lips to help the animators. The animation was done with proprietary software.
In the United States, the movie's Los Angeles run garnered 20% positive reviews at the critics-aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com. Los Angeles Times reviewer Alex Chun wrote that, "Director Luc Besson admits he knew nothing about animation before he started this project, and it shows". Variety's Robert Koehler called it "alienating and dislikable" and specifically noted that, "Having African-American thesps Snoop Dogg and Anthony Anderson voice creatures that are basically humanoid monkeys shows poor taste". Many found it derivative of sources ranging from King Arthur's sword-in-the-stone to the films The Dark Crystal and The Ant Bully, which itself was based on a children's book written three years before Besson's. "It all simply looks as if [conceptual artist Patrice] Garcia and Besson couldn't decide on any one thing to copy", said Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, "so they copied them all". Lovece also noted that, "the whole thing gets seriously creepy when [the animated versions of] the grown-up, pinup-beauty princess and the 10-year-old boy fall for each other. Mary Kay Letourneau comes uncomfortably to mind". Even though, in the film, Princess Selenia tells Arthur they are of equivalent age.
Besson, in a May 2007 interview, blamed American distributor The Weinstein Company for the film's poor critical reception in the U.S., saying "Why the critics didn't like Arthur was because [Weinstein] changed so much of the film and tried to pretend the film was American. ... America and the UK were the only countries where the films were changed. The rest of the world has the same film as France".
On February 1, 2007, the film received the Imagina Award in the category Prix du Long-Métrage.
On October 1, 2007, Mylène Farmer was awarded the NRJ Ciné Award for her dubbing of Sélénia's voice in Arthur and the Minimoys.
Home media release
The US edition DVD was released on May 15, 2007 with just the English-language version and cut down about 10 minutes from the original version. The international DVD versions include the uncut English-language version and the local-language version.
Differences between release versions
After a screening test in the United States, the Weinstein company edited the film. Approximately nine minutes were cut. Most of the edits pertained to the love story taking place between Arthur and Selenia. The Scenes were:
- Arthur's arrival at the Minimoy world in the middle of a Ceremony centering on Selenia's coming of age;
- Arthur falling in love with Selenia at first sight;
- Arthur removing a string from Selenia's corset to use as a rope during the river scene, and Selenia taking the string back;
- Max referring to their drinks as 'Jack Fire' instead of Genie Dust, to tone down the alcoholic reference. Also, when Arthur escapes the bar during the blackout, Max lights up and smokes something that resembles a blunt and explains to Darkos that he was merely following the curfew order when he turned off the lights to the bar.
- Selenia kissing Arthur before going to confront Maltazard, and Betameche congratulating them over their wedding;
- Selenia kissing Arthur before he is transported back to his own world;
- Arthur learning of the custom that a princess must wait ten moons (lunar months) before kissing her chosen husband for the second time;
- Davido attempting to steal the treasure from Archibald, before being captured by the Bogo Matassalai;
- Arthur's Grandmother in the antique dealership prior to them arriving at her home;
- Max telling Selenia about his 7 wives while they are dancing;
- Malthazar confronting Selenia about her engagement to Arthur.
The entire storyline involving the parents and their greed for money was also deleted, cut short by a small cutscene and a narrator explaining that worrying over their son was all they needed to reform completely.
The British version of the film, also distributed by the Weinstein Company, similarly lacked these scenes.
Besson announced in 2007 that he is directing two sequels, Arthur and the Vengeance of Maltazard, planned for Christmas 2009, and Arthur and the War of the Two Worlds, planned for Christmas 2010.
- "Arthur and the Invisibles". Box Office Mojo.
- "Arthur et les Minimoys (2006)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "French Director Visits China for Film Release". People's Daily. January 12, 2007.
- Alain Bielik (January 12, 2007). "Arthur and the Invisibles: Luc Besson's Animated World". Animation World Magazine.
- "Arthur and the Invisibles". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "Arthur and the Invisibles: A film with no shortage of well-known talent makes an awkward transition from live action to animation". Los Angeles Times. December 29, 2006.
- Robert Koehler (December 21, 2006). "Arthur and the Invisibles review". Variety.
- Frank Lovece (December 29, 2006). "Arthur and the Invisibles review". Film Journal International.
- Daniel Robert Epstein (May 18, 2007). "Luc Besson and Rie Rasmussen". SuicideGirls. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
- DeMott, Rick (February 7, 2007). "Gorillaz, X-Men, Over the Hedge, Arthur Take Imagina Awards". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
- "Nrj Ciné Awards 2007".
- Official website
- Arthur and the Invisibles at the Internet Movie Database
- Arthur and the Invisibles at Allmovie
- Arthur and the Invisibles at Box Office Mojo
- Arthur and the Minimoys at Keyframe
- Arthur and the Minimoys at CanMag
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