Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles

You’ll recognize Moomintroll when you see him: He’s a white, doughy, hippo-looking creature with big, sweet eyes and a tufted tail. Despite his funny appearance, he doesn’t stand out much. His Moominpappa and Moominmamma look like him; they live together in magical Moominvalley. In their world, dangers, frights, natural disasters, and villains abound, but everything that happens is undergirded by the love shared between the Moominfamily and their friends. That’s the thesis of Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles, a new visiting exhibition opening at the National Children’s Museum this week, putting Finnish author Tove Jansson‘s creations in front of D.C.’s children. Moominvalley’s soft, delightful ethos shows up in the characters’ pillowy and pointy designs, their names (Snorkmaiden, Snufkin, and Sniff are some of Moomintroll’s best friends), and their values. Some of the characters are loud, assertive, and a little prickly—the tiny girl Little My most of all—but have a heart of gold. Even villains like Stinky have a moral code. Tolerance, respect for nature, and love among chosen families are important values for the Moomins, whose creator was a lesbian with women partners when homosexuality was illegal in Finland. (A wise and kind character, Too-Ticky, is explicitly based on Jansson’s longtime partner Tuulikki Pietilä.) Today, Moomins are ubiquitous and beloved across Scandinavia: as an example, you can pick up all kinds of Moomin-emblazoned merch at Mikko, Dupont Circle’s Nordic cafe. (They’re also a huge hit in Japan.) Thrills and Cuddles, opening two decades after Jansson’s death, tracks the many different Moomin television productions—the famous Japanese-Dutch-Finnish animated collaboration Moomin (1990) and the 2019 Finnish series Moominvalley included—alongside things like a German puppet animation film, a 1969 Japanese animation, and some of Jansson’s original art. The exhibition runs Sept. 2 to Jan. 9, 2022 at the National Children’s Museum, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. nationalchildrensmuseum.org. Timed tickets and masks are required. $15.95.