Le Roi et l'oiseau (1980)

aka: The King and the Mockingbird
Animation / Musical / Fantasy


Le Roi et l'oiseau photo
The kingdom of Takicardie quakes under the rule of the tyrannical King Charles V-et-III-font-VIII-et-VIII-font-XIV, whose favourite pastime is shooting birds. His archenemy is a cheeky mockingbird, whose favourite pastime is thwarting the king's attempts to shoot birds. One night, a portrait of the king comes to life and disposes of the real king, taking his place. The portrait king falls in love with a young shepherdess in another painting and intends to marry her. But, alas, the shepherdess has fallen in love with a chimneysweep and together they elope from the king's palace. Enraged, the king sends his police to capture them and once they are within his power he forces the shepherdess to marry him. The mockingbird must use all his guile and courage to once more thwart the king and bring his evil reign to an end.
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Widely regarded as one of the finest animated films in cinema history, Le Roi et l'oiseau was the product of a legendary partnership between Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert. The former was the leading animator in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, the latter was arguably the most gifted and well-known of French film screenwriters. Grimault and Prévert worked together on a number of projects but this is by far their most successful and popular collaboration (although it was completed two years after Prévert's death).

The film began life in 1949 as an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale, The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep. Before the film was completed, there was a major production dispute which resulted in both Grimault and Prévert walking away from the project. The film was completed without Grimault and was released in 1953 under the title: La Bergère et le Ramoneur. Twenty years later, Paul Grimault decided to return to the project and complete it as he had envisaged. When the film was released in 1980 as Le Roi et le oiseau, it proved to be a great success both with critics and cinema audiences. The film won the prestigious award, the Prix Louis Delluc, in 1979.

In restoring and completing the film, Grimault was scrupulously careful to retain the look and feel of the original film. Although released in 1980, the film has the authentic look of a late 1940s animated feature. This dated look contrasts strikingly with the incredibly imaginative plot, which includes some mind-blowing surreal twists and turns. The film has the charm and poetry of Andersen's original fairytale, but it offers much more in the way of entertainment, and is hilariously funny in places. face="Arial,Helvetica">

With its obvious references to brutal oppression and totalitarianism, it is not difficult to see France's World War II experiences reflected in the film. What makes the film most effective, however, is the richness of the characterisation, which is at least on a par with, if not better than, that seen in the best Disney features. The king, despite his villainy, is a rather pathetic creature for whom we have some sympathy, whilst his nemesis, the mockingbird, makes an unusual hero but one that you instantly warm to.

Whilst children the world over should love Le Roi et le oiseau, it also has great appeal to adults. The quality of the animation and wealth of imagination in the script makes it an enduring work of art which greatly surpasses the majority of animated films which have been made since. In simplest terms, Le Roi et le oiseau is a timeless classic.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

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