French Anthropomorphic Animal Animated Features, Part 2 – by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Previously: French Anthropomorphic Animal Animated Features, Part 1. There will be four parts.
Continuing from where we left off …
Le Château des Singes (The Castle of Monkeys), directed by Jean-François Laguionie. 76 minutes. June 2, 1999.
Kom, a brash young monkey, is a member of the Woonko tribe which lives in the treetops, believing that the earth below them is inhabited by demons. Kom scoffs at this, and generally makes himself unpopular. One day he accidentally falls to the ground, where he meets the Lankoo tribe; monkeys like himself. He falls in love with Gina and is adopted into the Lankoos, although Gina is repelled by his boastfulness. But Kom and Gina become enmeshed in Lankoo politics when they discover that Sebastian the Chancellor is plotting to kill the king, poison Princess Ida, and rule with Ida’s evil governess. They are too late to save the king, but they expose the plotters and save Ida, who becomes the new queen. Kom brings Gina back to the Woonkos, where they will work to unify the two monkey tribes
Laguionie is an international award-winning animation director whose previous shorts and feature did not include any anthro animals. His second feature (international title: A Monkey’s Tale) won the Best Animated Feature Film award at the 5th Kecskemét (Hungary) Animation Film Festival, and was the first to bring him international attention.
A Monkey’s Tale website – Full movie:
A children’s movie based on a popular 1997-1998 French animated TV series of 52 13-minute episodes, premiering on September 1, 1997; itself based on six French children’s books by Christine Chagnoux from 1967 to 1987. The TV series was also known as Little Hippo in international markets and Hippo Hurra in Germany. In the TV series, Petit Potam is a hyperactive hippo six-year-old boy, living with parents Pa & Ma Potam, older sister Tessie, and older twin brothers Tim and Tam, with Grandma and Grandpa Potam living nearby; in the jungle village of Barbotam along the Potamazone River. The TV series, besides presenting gentle slice-of-life tales, emphasizes the problems of a youngest child in a large family.
In the feature, Petit Potam is playing along the river when he sees river pirates approaching. He runs to warn Barbotam, but nobody believes him due to his previous exaggerations. He runs away into the jungle, where he meets Honey Flower, a little tigress who has been living alone since the pirates attacked her village. She shows Petit Potam how to live in the jungle. But he misses his family, and feels guilty about leaving them to the pirates. He and Honey Flower return to Barbotam and prepare to defeat the pirates.
La Prophétie des Grenouilles (Raining Cats and Frogs), directed by Jacques-Rémy Girerd. 90 minutes. December 3, 2003.
Girerd founded the Folimage animation studio in 1981, but during the 20th century its only standout film was Michael Dudok de Wit’s 1994 short Le Moine et le Poisson (The Monk and the Fish). Since 2003, Folimage has produced several French cartoon-animated features (but most not anthropomorphic), beginning with La Prophétie des Grenouilles (literally The Prophecy of the Frogs). Ferdinand Bauer, his wife Juliette, and their grandchildren Tom and Lili live on a farm, with African animals that Lili’s parents send from a safari for a zoo. The frogs in a pond know that it is about to rain for forty days and nights, creating a new Flood that will drown Earth. They warn the children, who get their grandparents and the talking animals into the barn, which becomes a new Ark with Ferdinand as Noah. The barn is well-stocked with vegetables for the herbivores, but the lion and the fox organize the other carnivores into mutinying. The Ark is interrupted by an attack of crocodiles and a sea tortoise. After many adventures, the waters subside and it turns out that almost all humans also survived in other boats. An international prize-winner.
Raining Cats and Frogs trailer:
Pollux: Le Manège Enchanté (The Magic Roundabout), directed by Jean Duval, Dave Borthwick, and Frank Passingham. 78 minutes. February 2, 2005.
A new CGI feature inspired by the Franco-British stop-motion TV series and the 1970 feature, featuring Pollux (Dougal), the long-haired, overly-British Lhasa Apso with the sweet teeth. A typical peaceful day in Bois Joli (Happywood) introduces Pollux’s friends Zébulon (Zebedee) the good wizard, Azalée (Ermintrude) the operatic cow, Ambroise (Brian) the shy snail who is secretly in love with Azalée, Flappy (the same) the narcoleptic rabbit, and others. They are listening to an outdoor concert when Pollux appears in a runaway trolley, looking for more sweets. He crashes into the Magic Roundabout, freeing Zébulon’s evil twin Zabadie (Zeebad) who was prisoned under it. Zabadie loses no time in freezing Margote (Florence), the princess of the Bois Joli, and as many others as he can. It is revealed to everyone that if Zabadie can find three magic diamonds within three days, he can freeze the sun and rule the world forever. The movie becomes a race to find the three diamonds first.
Pollux: Le Manège Enchanté was a French-British co-production released in both countries at about the same time. Both had all-star voice casts. But what was fresh and imaginative in the 1960s and ‘70s was stale by 2005; and the CGI animation was no longer “different” enough to save it. Critics compared the plot unfavorably to Tolkien and the Indiana Jones movies, as just a stereotypical quest adventure with funny animals. It was a box-office failure in both countries.
- Pollux: The Magic Roundabout British trailer:
Produced in Luxembourg rather than France or Belgium, but still for the French-language market, in attractive but sharp-edged CGI animation. A new story based on the Reynard the Fox folk tale, for young children. Renart/Renny, with his hesitant friend Rufus the clumsy rat, is a cheeky Robin Hood-like good-guy thief, robbing from the corrupt animal Medieval nobility to give to the peasants. When Renart finds a map to the nobility’s combined treasure during Christmastime, this seems to promise a happy festival for the animal commoners. But Isengrim the wolf, the captain of the king’s guard, tries to stop him from getting it. Winner of the Grand Prix Anima 2005 (International Animation Film Festival of Brussels); Jury Prize, FIFA 2005 (Montréal International Festival of Films on Art).
15-year-old Max (a funny animal so generic that you have to study him for several minutes to guess whether he’s a mouse or dog or what) goes to the Fly Swatter Festival in Saint-Hilare, looking for his father, the missing folk singer Johnny Bigoude. He finds that the Festival and the city are run by the capitalist Rodolfo and his Bzzz & Co. fly-swatter company. Rodolfo’s daughter Felicie persuades him to hire Max, a young virtuoso. But when Max and Felicie learn too much about Rodolfo’s secret plans, they must escape him.
Max & Co was a stop-motion Swiss-French-Belgian co-production, mainly Swiss, with a thinly-anthropomorphized animal cast. It premiered at the 2007 Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 11, 2007, eight months before its French and international release, winning the 2007 Annecy Audience Award. It was the most expensive Swiss film of its time, with €1.5 million of its CHF €30 million budget provided by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. But despite its prestige and awards, its heavy-handed anti-capitalist pro-ecological message made it a commercial failure upon its general release. In August 2008, its production companies filed for bankruptcy.
- Max & Co trailer:
Originally announced by nWave Pictures as Around the World in 50 Years, with a strong ecological subplot. Sammy, an endangered green sea turtle, is born on a sandy Pacific island beach, escapes being eaten by sea gulls, and has adventures swimming all around the world, growing to adulthood during the next fifty years. He makes friends with Ray and Shelly, another boy and girl turtle, and is often separated from them and re-meeting them. Notable adventures include going to Antarctica and almost freezing, and searching with Shelly for a rumored “secret passage” between the Americas – the Panama Canal. At the end, the mature Sammy helps a newborn green turtle as he was fifty years ago
Stassen’s Belgian nWave Pictures released this and its sequel throughout French-speaking Europe and Quebec, but it was designed for the American theatrical market. It did not make it, but it has had a steady life as an American children’s DVD.
A Turtle’s Tale trailer:
Next: French Anthropomorphic Animal Animated Features, Part 3. – Fred Patten