In hindsight, this wasn't the best entry point for my parents into the whimsical world of the Moomins 😂 You can normally bank on a Moomins property to be a little oddball, a little philosophical, and a little adorable, but Winter Wonderland really just cranks up the curveballs. I mean, the film opens with a beautifully animated title sequence in a hand-drawn, soft-blur motion style sequence and then pivots completely to a slightly janky, collage-esque stop motion animation for the actual story. It's a strange combination and, unfortunately, the stop motion is definitely the worse of the two.
Then there's the story, which is definitely aimed at young children (to be charitable). There is a vague progression in terms of time and events, but for the most part things just happen in order to get to the next bit. Want to introduce a character? Just have them turn up. Want to progress the story? Just cut to the next plot point. Plus, a lot of the subplots just do what they say on the tin: small dog thinks the wolves are her friends? Almost eaten. Neighbour discovers no one is coming to visit for Christmas? Immediately gets invited to the Moomins.
Sprinkle over the top of these short, relatively jarring plot points a liberal dose of "just say what we mean" dialogue and Winter Wonderland can be unintentionally quite funny. The Moomins franchise has always had a dash of liberalism and Scandinavian ethics to it, which is fine, but when you have a character say out loud "I'm such a great companion, because I'm always able to lead people to do what I want" (I'm paraphrasing a bit) it's not exactly a thinly-veiled message 😁 Exercising is good; empathy is good; common sense is good; and, for some reason, blindly following superstition is good? Not so sure about the last one, but the bonfire scene with the invisible shrews and wood demons (none of which is a typo) is a lot of fun so... there we go!
On top of which, almost every character from the Moomin's world crops up (except, weirdly, Snork Maiden, though she is name-checked at one point), though many of them don't seem to know each other yet. Add to that the fact that none of the main cast of Moomin family are introduced, nor is any back story given, and I can imagine this is a slightly nightmarish whirlwind of confusion for anyone who doesn't know the franchise already. And speaking of nightmares, Winder Wonderland definitely has some darker themes. It might just be a Scandinavian need to stop kids wandering off into snowstorms, but the perils of winter are given literal form here. There are the aforementioned wood demons and invisible shrews, who are more chaotic good than anything else, but then you get the ghostly Lady of the Cold, who freezes a squirrel to death in a dream and appears to be quite beautifully malevolent, contrasted with the Groke, a walking ball of hair with flashing crystal eyes that desperately wants to be warm but can only be cold. Plus, the wolves that will eat you. And the fact that the sun will never return without a bonfire to guide its way. I think children will love the quirky world-building, but adults might get a little unsettled by the weirder bits 😁
Which is all to say that, yes, this is a kids film. It follows a story like children's TV does: loosely, with lots of diversions, and short bursts of narrative centred around a single, specific outcome. The characters are more one-dimensional plot progresses, that have their moment and then are never heard from again. There's a scattering of lessons to be learnt, mainly about the dangers of winter weather and the benefits to being nice to one another, particularly during winter months when you're all trapped together, but mostly it's just whimsical fantasy without much point. Take that as you will.