Rewind Team Member Jari Kovalainen has an interview from Ms Sophia Jansson, the creative director and Chairwoman of the Board at Moomin Characters Oy Ltd. As the official copyright holders of the Moomin characters, the company is handling licensing and copyright supervision for the brand. In addition being the gatekeeper of the brand, Sophia Jansson aims to honor the legacy of her multitalented aunt Tove Jansson - the creator of the Moomins.

The Janssons in Poland 1978
Tove Jansson and her brother Lars in Poland in the late 1970s
(Photo used, and copyright, by the permission of Moomin Characters Oy Ltd)

Tove’s stories, illustrations, books and a comic strip laid the firm groundwork of everything related to Moomins, including the TV series “The Moomins” (Opowiadania muminków), produced in Poland in 1977-1982. Unlike the earlier Japanese animations (1), Tove liked and approved the Polish made “Fuzzy Felt” stop motion puppet series (2), which was also relatively faithful to the original stories by the author.

Sophia Jansson answers our questions from her office in Helsinki, Finland.

Can you tell us bit about your background?

My name is Sophia Jansson and I am Tove Jansson’s niece. Her brother Lars Jansson (3) was my father. Today I am the Creative director and Chairwoman of the board at Moomin Characters Oy Ltd. I grew up close to Tove Jansson and as a child and young adult I spent my summers near her island (4).

What do you remember of the 1977-1982 Polish puppet animation series?

I was a teenager when the Polish animation series was made and not directly involved with the project, so I have very few memories of it. One of the few things I remember was that some of the Polish people working on the animation often came to Helsinki to visit and Tove and Lars had to take them out to dinner. This was quite exhausting for them as all conversation was done with an interpreter and there was always someone from the establishment, a politruck, (5) who came along to control what the Polish artists said and did in Finland.

How Tove Jansson felt about the different Moomin animations and TV series throughout the years?

A great many projects have been made over the years based on Tove’s stories and books (6). In the beginning she was very happy about all the interest and the possibilities for her Moomintrolls to be seen, for example on TV. However, gradually she grew quite tired of being famous and all the commercial demands on her work and became increasingly protective of her privacy. She also wanted time to work on other things than Moomin projects (7).

Did Tove Jansson visit Poland during the production of the animated series?

As far as I know, the only time (8) Tove and Lars went to Poland in connection with the animation series was in 1978. I believe the trip went well. Tove and Lars were involved in the making of the series mostly from Finland through letters, meetings and discussions with the animators.

I am afraid I have no information on how many changes Tove and Lars requested to the original manuscripts (9), but I suspect they were not involved with the various international dubs of the series (10).

Did you provide any artistic input or other cooperation for the creation of the feature films created from the restored material of the TV series?

We were shown the final result of the films.

(The series was restored in 2010 by the Finnish producer Tom Carpelan of the Oy Filmkompaniet Alpha Ab. Please read his interview from here: Moomin interview with Tom Carpelan )

What is the future of Moomin Characters Oy Ltd?

We hope the future of Moomin Characters is bright though it is never easy to find the right balance between overseeing a cultural legacy and the commercial demands made upon it. The company has however grown steadily over the last 10-15 years and the Moomin books are still very much in print in many countries. We estimate that there will be an increasing number of Moomin fans each year. Right now the number of times moomin content is shared on the official moomin.com site reaches about 25 million people worldwide.

Interview footnotes:

*1 The first Japanese animation series “Moomin” was released in 1969-1970 and a “remake” series “New Moomin” in 1972. While Tove Jansson appreciated their technical quality, she didn't like the drastic changes the Japanese made (e.g. bringing things like money or cars to the world of Moomins). She felt the Japanese series simply had the wrong atmosphere.

*2 In the Finnish TV magazine “Katso” from January 1980, Tove Jansson says that she likes the series very much.

*3 Lars Jansson is best known for writing and drawing the Moomin comic strip from 1959 to 1975. The influential comic strip was created by Tove Jansson in 1947 and at its peak published in 40 countries.

*4 Tove Jansson lived many summers on a small island called Klovharu off the coast of Porvoo in the Pellinki archipelago, Finland.

*5 “Politruk” means political commissar and at the time of “The Moomins” TV series, all Polish animation studios were state owned (between 1945 and 1989 spanned the period of Soviet communist dominance in Poland). The studios had some freedom, provided they followed certain bureaucratic guidelines.

*6 There have been several TV incarnations based on the Moomins, from 1959 West German marionette TV series “Die Muminfamilie“ to a 2014 animated feature “Moomins on the Riviera”. A new Finnish-Swedish-UK TV series is in development by the Swedish company FilmLance International.

*7 Tove Jansson’s last Moomin novel, “Moominvalley in November”, was published in 1970. After that she wrote and illustrated a few picture books related to Moomins.

*8 Based on the article of the Finnish TV magazine “Katso” from January 1980, also Tove’s partner Tuulikki Pietilä visited in Poland with Tove to see the animation work.

*9 Apparently, the scripts for the episodes were sent to Finland for Tove and Lars Jansson to read before they were filmed. The original Polish scripts were written by Lucjan Dembinski (he also directed many episodes of “The Moomins”) and Maria Kossakowska. Dembinski was the legend of Polish animation.

*10 “The Moomins” (Opowiadania muminków) TV series was first dubbed to Polish (first 12 episodes narrated by Stanislaw Wyszynski, and the rest by Stanislaw Kwasniak) and German (narrated by Hans Clarin). The series was produced by the Polish animation studio “Studio Malych Form Filmowych - Se-ma-for”, but co-produced by the Austrian “Jupiter-Film” (Polish and German TV stations were probably also involved in financing). In 1983 it was dubbed to English in the UK (narrated by Richard Murdoch) and in 1984 to Finnish, narrated by Harri hyttinen (the part of the series was first shown in Finland already in 1980-1981, but mainly in its original language - apparently actress Raila Hämäläinen narrated selected episodes already in 1980).

Written by and copyright – Jari Kovalainen, 2016