What are the odds that Matteo the talking diary, a pen named Quill Simona, and two doves called Piccolo and Fiona will become beloved animated characters just like Bambi, Pinocchio, or Winnie the Pooh?
The producers of “John Paul II, The Friend of Humanity” are hoping so. The new Vatican-approved film, revealed at a press conference this week, shows “the human side of John Paul,” according to J.L. Lopez-Guardia, a Spanish animation artist who worked on the film. The producers and the Vatican are hoping that the film becomes a big hit this Christmas season.
The movie, which will be released on DVD, was made in eight languages. It starts on the night that the Pope died and then goes back to his birth in 1920, through his days in communist Poland and continuing through his 27 years in the papacy. After 30 minutes of animation, the second half shows film clips of his papacy while a narrator relates his most famous sayings and quotes.
In the wake of the recent controversy with the current Pope Benedict XVI, who in a speech quoted a Byzantine emperor’s statement that Islam is “evil and inhuman,” perhaps this movie will bring some positive attention to the Vatican. I don’t know how hot the Christmas market is for religious-themed animated films. But I do know that Pope John Paul was beloved by millions around the world, people who probably will welcome a gentle look at his life and the way he beautifully shaped the world at large.