Based on a well-known German book for children from 1915, this derivative but adequate animated feature fuses together an assortment of vaguely familiar characters and story tropes. The clever bit is that the film takes ideas from folklore and appears to be inspired by pre-existing intellectual property without infringing it.
For instance, one of the characters that early-adolescent protagonist Pete (voiced by Aleks Le) meets on his way to the moon, where his sister has been taken prisoner, is the Sandman, a traditional figure in northern European mythology and popularised by ETA Hoffmann in the early 19th century. Later on, our heroes get to ride the backs of giant polar bears, remarkably similar to the ones in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book series. Meanwhile, the humans’ guides also include beetles wistfully looking for abducted loved ones that seem to be mutant descendants of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio and the creepy crawlies from A Bug’s Life.
Younger children ought to be drawn to the saturated colours and the adventurous hijinks wherein the siblings learn to look out for each other and stand up to bullies. Pete’s little sister Anne (Lilian Gartner) has a very annoying voice and is dead ringer for Bonnie in Toy Story 3, but she’s an admirable enough role model for youngsters with her irrepressible optimism and belief in the fantastic. For accompanying adults’ amusement, there’s a winking reference to Spartacus two-thirds of the way in. Otherwise, the humour aims for the kids much more than older age groups.
• Moonbound is released on 6 August in cinemas.