Meet Franklin Turtle (Noah Reid). Franklin is, as his name suggests, a turtle. Franklin has a sister, Harriet (Bryn McAuley). She is also a turtle. Franklin has parents, Mr. and Mrs. Turtle. They are, like their children, both turtles. Their parents own a farm. It is not full of turtles.
The Turtle family are friends with the Bear family. They are, as their name suggests, bears. Franklin the turtle spends his time play fighting with Bear (Note to children: DO NOT PLAY FIGHT WITH BEARS) and helping out on the farm. He feeds the chickens, who are not turtles, looks after a pet cat, who is not a turtle, and rides horses. They are not turtles either.
This tiny festive film, which barely runs to 50 minutes, is clearly aimed at younger children – the kind who presumably haven’t seen The Lion King before, because whatever this Circle of Life in Franklin is, it’s messed up. Sometimes, the Turtles play the piano and sing. It’s even more disturbing.
The plot mainly focuses around Franklin’s visit to his grandparents for the holiday. On the way, he manages to lose his cuddly toy puppy, but soon gets distracted by Grandma Turtle’s plan to do up an old sleigh for Grandpa Turtle. Some old photos, a magic bell and an anecdote about a reindeer later and it’s no surprise where Franklin’s Magic Christmas is headed – but that’s ok. Everything is set firmly to mild peril to stop smaller ones getting scared, even when they are lost in the woods, and that leaves the film in Safe Mode; nothing dazzling but nothing distressing either.
The animations aren’t exactly worth shouting about and the film is the second sequel in the Franklin franchise, but this is an unassuming, harmless tale with no sign of product placement, commercial studios or token gags for the grown-ups. For littl’uns in need a 45 minute burst of seasonal cheer, you could do a lot worse. Just be prepared to explain that turtles can’t play the piano. Or feed chickens. Or ride horses. Or fight with bears.