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Making an Old Story New Again with The Polar Bear Prince

Making an Old Story New Again with The Polar Bear Prince

WeAnimate 2024-03-04 | wam#0032

From Thor to The Little Mermaid, Nordic myths and fables are loved around the world, and are a never-ending source of inspiration for generations of storytellers. Valemon: The Polar Bear King, proudly continues that tradition, adapting an ancient legend into a modern classic.

The fable of Valemon, king of the polar bears, is one of Norway’s most enduring myths. It’s a timeless tale of love and magic, traversing dramatic landscapes and full of suspense. Like so many famous Nordic legends, the source material is the perfect foundation for an animated feature that will be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and cultures.

Norwegian folktales like Valemon were collected and preserved in the 1800s by friends Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, inspired by the work of the Brothers Grimm in Germany. When asked why these stories continue to be relevant for every generation, Valemon producer Cor­nelia Boysen says:


Fairytales are universal. Every culture tells their young people stories about morals and ethics. Every culture teaches the difference between right and wrong, and the fundamentals of morals are the same everywhere, and never change. Fairytale characters are archetypes, so they form a reference point for people of all ages and places. That’s why they are relevant for everyone, everywhere

To adapt this ancient story into the screenplay for Valemon: The Polar Bear King, Maipo Film is working with acclaimed author Maja Lunde. Lunde is the most internationally successful Norwegian writer of her generation, with books that have sold over 2.5 million copies and been translated into 40 languages. In addition to her many successful books and novels, Lunde has written several screenplays for film and TV. Lunde and Maipo’s previous collaboration, 2020s The Crossing, was recently awarded the EFA Young Audience Award.

In fact, Maya Lunde is the driving force behind this ambitious project. She approached Maipo with a desire to retell the old fable of the polar bear king with an updated interpretation. Lunde wanted to emphasize the agency of the princess, to show her actively making her own choices and accepting the consequences. As in the rest of Lunde’s work, she also incorporates concepts about climate and the environment that are increasingly relevant for contemporary audiences. The result is a new classic: a timeless adventure for the whole family, with modern themes that relate to a new generation. Boysen says:


The story of Valemon is well known in Norway. While we have modified and updated it, the core remains the same. It is important to preserve the heart of a story that people love so much, while adapting it for wider audiences

Valemon’s Award Winning Behind-the-Scenes Team

Valemon: The Polar Bear King is a co-production between Norway’s Maipo Film and Belgium’s Vivi Film, along with Belga Film.

Maipo Film is one of Norway’s leading production companies, with more than 40 productions since their inception in 2000. Their work has been recognized at Sundance, Karlovy Vary, and Canneseries, and 2002’s Elling was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The first of Maipo’s trilogy of stop-motion Louis and Luca films had Norway’s highest cinema attendance in a decade.

Vivi Film has over 30 years experience in short film, documentary, and animation. Vivi Film’s founder Viviane Vanfleteren was recognized, along with co-producers Les Armateurs and Cartoon Saloon, as the Cartoon Movie Producer of the Year in 2009 for her work on The Secret of Kells, and was also a co-producer on 2003 Academy Award nominee The Triplets of Belleville.

Director Mikkel B. Sandemose has been writing and directing for decades. He is best known for the two The Ash Lad films, and for the award-winning Ragnarok. Although he has directed several films, Valemon is his first animated feature. Writer Maja Lunde is working closely with Sandemose throughout pre-production, in a highly collaborative environment typical of the Nordics. The team at Maipo feel lucky to have her, and know that the final film will only benefit from these close partnerships. Valemon: The Polar Bear King, is currently in pre-production, pitching at Cartoon Movie, and scheduled for cinemas near you by Christmas 2024.


Text: Rebekah Villon
Pictures: Courtesy of Daniel Cacouault / Maipo Film


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