The National Children’s Museum will soon say goodbye to its visiting exhibition on the evolving animations of the Moomins, Finland’s beloved fairytale family, as part of the Kids Euro Fest 2021 performing arts season. The exhibit, on loan from the world’s only Moomin Museum, in Tampere, Finland, made its international debut in Washington, D.C. in September with animations and art spanning decades of work from the famed artist Tove Jansson. The final date to visit “Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles” is January 9, 2022.
The Moomins, a menagerie of adorable and emotionally complex characters inhabiting Jansson’s Moominvalley, have shared their messages of love, respect, nature and inclusion across the world since their first publication in 1945. Minna Honkasalo, Producer of the Moomin Museum in Tampere, says the Moomins radiate “this base of warmness and friendship, the wisdom of equality and love of nature. Something all people share.” The primary Moomin in a large and beautiful cast of fantasy characters is Moomintroll, a kind-hearted young boy fascinated by everything he sees, eternally yearning to make his friends happy. Moomintroll lives with his watchful parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, in their cozy Moominhouse, where they interact with a colorful collection of eccentric, and sometimes peculiarly-shaped, neighbors.
Tove Jansson, raised by a family of Swedish-speakers living in Finland, first formulated the adventures of Moomintroll and his family during the Winter War with the USSR (1939-1940). “She wanted to create something joyful in the middle of the darkness of war. A beautiful place that doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your religion is,” shares Suvi Järvelä-Hagström, Head of Cultural Affairs for the Embassy of Finland. In 1945, Jansson’s first book on the Moomins, “The Moomins and the Great Flood,” detailed Moomintroll’s and Moominmamma’s spooky flight through a forest before finally settling in Moominvalley. The author would go on to publish a further eight books and five picture books set in Moominvalley, each one including a variety of recurring and guest characters.
Born to talented artist parents in 1914, Jansson and her siblings were encouraged to pursue a diverse spectrum of artistic mediums. Her father, Viktor Bernhard Jansson, was a sculptor of some renown and her mother, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, was a prolific stamp designer and graphic artist. This resulted in Jannson maturing into a multi-faceted artist known not just for her novels about Moomins, but for her paintings, illustrations, cartoons and internationally popular comic strips. Equally important to the Finnish people is how Jansson championed awareness for the LGBTQ community, living openly as a queer woman and successful artist in a country where homosexuality was criminally punishable until 1971.
The Evolution of Moomins
Just as Jansson delved into a plethora of artistic expressions, Moomintroll and his family have been depicted across the world through evolving mediums. “There have been all kinds of interpretations of the books for over 60 years,” says Honkasalo. “Even Tove herself made theatre plays and operas from the same stories.” The earliest animation representing Moomins was a 1959 German marionette film that premiered on TV. The current National Children’s Museum exhibi features these early portrayals, including Japanese and Polish animations, from 1969 and 1977 respectively, as well as the best-known Moomin animation to date: the Finnish-Dutch-Japanese joint production “Tales from Moominvalley,” which aired in 1990 in 120 countries.
One of the sponsors for the NCM exhibit is Finnish production company Gutsy Animations, the creators behind the latest animated depiction of Moomins. Their series, “Moominvalley,” is an award-winning, beautifully rendered 3D TV show that first premiered in 2019 and is featured heavily throughout the D.C. exhibit. Each month during the run of the exhibit, curated hybrid programs (both in-person and virtual) will dive deeper into the animation process behind Moomins and include guest appearances from some of the team behind the “Moominvalley” series.
The visiting exhibit will also host pop-up events every other weekend; Moomin Dance Party is where kids can show off their best dance moves, jamming out to the greatest hits from the “Moominvalley” TV series; Invisible Child Storytime is a special prerecorded reading by Tove Jansson’s niece, Sophia Jansson, of a heartwarming tale about a child regaining her voice after being isolated from her family.
For a complete schedule of programming and special events at the Moomin exhibit, families should visit the National Children’s Museum website at nationalchildrensmuseum.org.
“Christmas with the Moomins” (Saturday, December 11, 10:30 a.m.) – Hear and discuss a lovely Moomin story written by Tove Jansson and learn about the holiday traditions of her native country Finland. In-person and virtual.
Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles Recommended for children age 3-10.Runs through January 9, 2022.
National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C. 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 Open Thursday–Sunday. Morning session: 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; Afternoon session: 1:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
While the museum welcomes Moomin fans of all ages, adults (age 18+) and teens (13-17) are to be accompanied by a child (age 0-12) to enter the museum. To visit Moomin Animations – Thrills + Cuddles without a child (age 0-12), please email the Museum to inquire about reserving adult-and-teen-only tickets during special times.
About The Exhibition
The Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles exhibition is brought to the United States by the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C., in cooperation with the Moomin Museum, Moomin Characters Oy Ltd, Gutsy Animations and National Children’s Museum.