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A Fantastical Journey of Overcoming Adversity Through Mystical Bonds

MOVIE REVIEW
School of Magical Animals (Die Schule der magischen Tiere)

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Genre: Adventure, Family
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 33m
Director(s): Gregor Schnitzler
Writer(s): Viola Scmidt, John Chambers (Screenplay,) Based on Children's Book Series by Margit Auer
Cast: Emilia Maier, Leonard Conrads, Loris Sichrovsky, Nadja Uhl, Justus von Dohnányi, Heiko Pinkowski, Marleen Lohse, Milan Peschel, Denis Lyons, Dulcie Smart, Carrie Getman
Language: English (dubbed)
Where To Watch: in select theaters, beginning March 24, 2023


RAVING REVIEW: Dive into the enchanting world of SCHOOL OF MAGICAL ANIMALS, a live-action film that brings to life a mesmerizing school where students form bonds with magical animal companions. This is Harry Potter-inspired, but it also does enough to create its whimsical world that stands separately from the Wizarding World.


The story unfolds as our protagonist Ida Kronenberg, played by Emilia Maier, moves to a new town and is enrolled in a local school. She faces challenges fitting in due to her classmates' unwelcoming attitudes. As mysterious disappearances occur at the school, students and their otherworldly friends join forces to reveal the thief's identity. Ida and her friend ‘Benni,’ played by Leonard Conrads, against all odds, become the first in their class to receive these magical companions, with Benni befriending a wise ancient turtle and Ida being matched up with a cunning fox.

My only complaint is that I would have preferred seeing the German language version, as dubbed movies are somewhat distracting for me. However, I acknowledge that the dubbed version is the right choice to appeal to its core audience in the US.

Based on Margit Auer's novels, this endearing book series has been translated into over 20 languages and sold more than 4.8 million copies in German-speaking countries alone. Kordes & Kordes Film Süd has skillfully adapted the book series for the big screen, boasting a nearly 10 million Euros budget. Director Gregor Schnitzler brilliantly captures the book's essence, creating a wondrous cinematic experience for children. Animation director Tomer Eshed brings to life the delightful, engaging, and fun characters that play vital roles in the movie.

A unique aspect of this film is its ability to connect with children by blending their everyday experiences with a magical narrative. The producers emphasize the school's crucial role in shaping children's lives, while Margit Auer's stories give each child a loyal animal companion that is the perfect match for their life needs.

The design and development of the animal characters, such as the fox, and turtle, were of paramount importance. The producers acknowledged the elaborate creative process of crafting these vivid and emotionally engaging characters. At the author's request, they chose a live-action approach over a fully animated feature for the screen adaptation, placing the fantastical creatures within the children's natural world.

Music also holds a significant place in the film. The producers embraced the director's concept of incorporating songs to express emotions. The title track and other songs contribute to the story's depth and richness.

Although the film could use a deeper exploration of specific story elements, it effectively caters to its primary target audience—younger children. Striking a balance between action-packed scenes and peaceful, reflective moments, the film emphasizes the moral development of young individuals who the school system or their parents may marginalize. Furthermore, including musical numbers enhances the film, artfully weaving choreography, song material, and vocal performances into this delightful escapade.

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[photo courtesy of Wolfgang Aichholzer/BLUE FOX ENTERTAINMENT]