Besides Santa Claus there are also other celebrities to help making Rovaniemi and Lapland well known all over the world. One of my favorites, besides Santa of course, is Niko, the absolutely adorable little reindeer. He became famous in 2008 when the first movie about his adventures was made. I went to see that movie and loved it, so I bought myself the DVD to be able to look at the movie together with my grandchildren one day as they grow a little bit older. After the first film about Niko, the Niko 2 was ready in 2012 and nowadays you can even download your own app to play the Niko game on your mobile phone or read the book on iPad.
The first movie about Niko, “Niko & The Way to the Stars (“The Flight Before Christmas“ in North America, “Niko – Lentäjän poika” in Finland), is a Danish-Finnish-German-Irish computer animated Christmas film from 2008. It revolves around a young reindeer who must overcome his fear of flying by heading to Santa Claus’ fell to save him and his fleet of flying reindeer from a pack of wolves.
Niko was told by Oona, his mother, that his father is one of the “Flying Forces”, Santa’s flying sled reindeer. Niko dreams of joining his dad as a flying reindeer but he is unable to fly. While trying to fly with the encouragement of Julius, a flying squirrel who takes on the role of a mentor and father figure, the other young reindeer teased Niko. To avoid further teasing, Niko and his reindeer-friend Saga leave their protected valley so Niko can practice without any disruptions. Niko gets spotted by two of the wolves, and escapes to his herd in panic, not thinking about the repercussions. While the herd is fleeing the valley, Niko overhears others talking of how his actions have damaged the herd. He decides to leave the herd in an attempt to find his father and Santa’s Fell.
When Niko is discovered missing, the squirrel Julius chooses to look for Niko as he can search without leaving a trail as fresh snow is falling. Once he finds him, Julius cannot convince Niko to return to the herd and reluctantly joins him in the search for Santa’s secret location. Meanwhile, Essie, a lost pet poodle, stumbles upon the wolf pack and is about to be eaten, but suggests to Black Wolf the idea of killing Santa’s Flying Forces reindeer instead. Essie is considered Black Wolf’s good luck charm for this idea and is spared, but is also forced to join the pack on this grim plan. And so the story goes on and Niko finally ends up finding his father and Santa’s Flying Forces. There are some very scary parts of the movie and that is why this should not be seen by children under 7 years old. Otherwise a very nice movie about the cute reindeer Niko and his adventures.
The follower-up, the “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” 3D film, had its world premiere in Rovaniemi on October 1st, 2012. You can see the trailer here on YouTube.
In this film young reindeer boy Niko still lives with his mother Oona and his father is still serving Santa’s Flying Forces. Niko secretly wishes his mom and his hero dad would get back together and they could be a real family, which they never have been. One day mom tells Niko the news: she has met a guy, an ordinary reindeer called Lenni, and he and his little son Jonni will move in together with Niko and his mother. Niko´s world is shaken: he will not be the only child anymore, and he has to live together and look after this little cute step-brother – with not so good results…
The “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” 3D film has also been turned into a mobile game. In the game you get to fly with the reindeer Niko in spectacular winter scenery where wooden signs show the way to Rovaniemi.
In addition to Niko, the game features another character from the film, the delightful flying squirrel Julius. It can be downloaded for free from the App Store. In addition, you can learn more about the adventure of Niko and his friends in the Niko 2 book, audiobook and iPad book published by Gummerus.
The first film about Niko, “Niko & The Way to the Stars” has had more screenings abroad than any Finnish film ever. “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” is also expected to become an international success. The film and the game will improve the visibility of the Rovaniemi region in all screening countries.