French Anthropomorphic Animal Animated Features, Part 4 – by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Blackie (or Blacky) is a black sheep who goes out of her way to be “different”. Kanuto is an exasperated sheepdog who is in love with her. When Blackie decides to travel to the Moon, Kanuto reluctantly joins her. Other characters include Blackie’s loyal followers, Pepe (horse) and Marvin (duck); Fancy, Cloe, and Victoria, the sheep fashionistas who are jealous of Blackie; Theodora, the motherly operatic cow who thinks that Blackie should be a ballerina; Karl Wolf, the haughty lupine fashion designer; Hu Flung Pu, the martial artist spider and his illegal spider seamstresses; the three Patrino Russian canine cosmonauts who have a rocket ship; Rainbow (Grumbo), the macho U.S. Army dog and rival sheepdog who acts more like Rambo; two Bulgarian birds from a singing TV reality show contest; and Pinkie, the sheep who is experimented upon and becomes as large (also as unfriendly) as Godzilla.
Blackie & Kanuto was a CGI Spanish-French-Italian animated feature premiered at the May 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and first released in Spain on February 15, 2013. It was shown in different countries (it was extremely popular in Russia) in different edits. Other titles included Head Over Hooves and Pup.
Oggy et les Cafards: Le Film (Oggy and the Cockroaches: The Movie), directed by Olivier Jean-Marie. 80 minutes. August 7, 2013.
Based on the popular Oggy et les Cafards TV series of 270 7-minute episodes plus 4 half-hour specials since 1999; broadcast in more than 150 countries. Oggy, the fat blue cat; Joey, Marky, and Dee Dee, his cockroach adversaries; Olivia, his white cat love interest; Jack, Oggy’s green cousin; and Bob the bulldog, another of Oggy’s enemies, are all well-established. The TV series, produced by France’s Xilam studio which also produced this theatrical feature, is in pantomime so young children everywhere can understand it.
From the dawn of time, two forces have confronted each other in perpetual, total, merciless combat. A combat which we never suspected despite its ferocity. This clash of titans, this ancestral war, this battle across the ages, isn’t that between good and evil … it’s that of Oggy versus the cockroaches!” (long-running French slogan; my translation)
The feature follows Oggy and his three cockroach enemies through four periods of history: the ancient caveman days, when Oggy Magnon invents fire; the Middle Ages, when Prince Oggy is a knight in armor; Victorian London, where Oggy Watson is a famous detective; and the far future, where Oggy-Wan Kenoggy battles the cockroach minions of an evil empire. The movie is packed with humorous sight references to scenes in famous movies. The supporting cast is present in each age (except Olivia, who isn’t in the Star Wars parody). Each climaxes with Oggy battling Joey, Marky, and Dee Dee with his trusty flyswatter.
The first three ages are in traditional cel cartoon animation. The s-f adventure is in futuristic-looking CGI. Oggy et les Cafards: Le Film won Best Film at the 2013 Seville European Film Festival, and was nominated for awards at others.
Loulou, l’Incroyable Secret (Wolfy, the Incredible Secret), directed by Éric Omond. 80 minutes. December 18, 2013.
Author-illustrator Grégoire Solotareff created Loulou (Wolfy) in 1984 in a series of picture books that led to Loulou et Autres Loups…, a 2003 29-minute animated featurette of four stories, about the orphaned wolf cub being adopted by the family of Tom, a rabbit in the Land of Rabbits. In this 2013 feature-length sequel, Loulou and Tom have remained best friends and have grown to adolescence. Suddenly a suspicious gypsy tells Loulou that his mother is not dead; she is Princess Olympie of the Principality of Wolfenberg. The two teens journey there to find her (and where Loulou learns to wear clothes). But they arrive in the midst of Wolfenberg’s aristocracy’s Festival de Carne (the Carnivore Games; the Meat-Eaters’ Festival; CarniFestival), where everyone assumes that Loulou has brought Tom to be part of the feast. Their stay puts unexpected stresses on their friendship. Just as the carnivores are demanding that Loulou turn Tom over to them, Miss Scarlett, a sympathetic vixen entertainer (who is connected to a revolutionary underground), helps them to escape. Amidst Wolfenberg’s political unrest, Loulou searches for the reason why he was raised as an orphan among rabbits when his mother is a princess among wolves.
Solotareff and Serge Elissalde, the co-directors of the 2003 Loulou et Autres Loups…, also directed the 2006 U Loulou, l’Incroyable Secret was a French-Belgian co-production whose numerous studios included Belvision. It opened the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, won the 2014 César Award for Best Animated Film, and was a selection of 66 film festivals in France alone.
Miniscule: La Vallée des Fourmis Perdues (Miniscule: The Valley of Lost Ants), directed by Hélène Giraud and Thomas Szabo. 89 minutes. January 29, 2014.
In this pantomime (except for Mandible’s command-whistle) CGI feature, a married couple is having a picnic in the countryside. The pregnant wife goes into labor, and the couple rush to a hospital, abandoning their picnic. A newborn ladybug flies into a box of sugar cubes. A column of black ants, led by Mandible, discovers the picnic remains, then drops everything to concentrate on the box of sugar. An army of red ants tries to steal the sugar, and the black ants hastily take the box back to their anthill despite many perils, helped by the ladybug who becomes their friend. When a vast horde of red ants, led by the warrior Butor, attacks the black ants, war breaks out with improvised catapults, rockets, and a French banknote made into a paper plane. Mandible and the black ants are losing until the ladybug goes for help.
Les Moomins sur la Riviera (Moomins on the Riviera), directed by Xavier Picard and Hanna Hemilä. 80 minutes. February 4, 2015.
A co-production of Pictac Cie. in France and Handle Productions in Finland, in honor of Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday. An adaptation of the “Moomins on the Riviera” sequence in her and her brother Lars’ Moomin 1954-1975 comic strip, produced in cel animation in her signature art style. The entire Moomin family of forest trolls, and all their friends, go to the French Rivera for their vacation. Their unity is threatened as Moominpappa is drawn into the sophisticated world of Marquis Mongaga, and Snorkmaiden (Moomin’s girlfriend) is toyed with by playboy Clark Tresco. They ultimately are glad to get home to Moominvalley.
Les Moomins sur la Riviera is considered a 2015 release in French-speaking Europe, but a 2014 Finnish feature in much of the rest of the world. It was released on October 10, 2014 in Finland and on October 31, 2014 in Sweden, to celebrate Jansson’s 100th birthday (August 9, 1914), and was extremely popular there. It was shown in English on October 11 at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival, but will be a 2015 English-language release.
Yellowbird, directed by Christian De Vita and Dominique Monfery. 90 minutes. February 18, 2015.
Yellowbird is an adolescent orphan living alone in the ruins of an old house, afraid to leave it despite the exasperation of Ladybug, his friend and foster mother. When Darius, the leader of a migrating bluebird flock, is mortally wounded by a nearby cat, he passes on the migration’s route to Africa to Yellowbird, to give to the new flock leader. But Bug persuades him to lead the migration himself, despite his total lack of experience and most of the birds’ skepticism, with the help of Delf, Darius’ daughter.
Yellowbird was the first CGI theatrical production of Parisian TV animation studio TeamTO. It was pre-sold to the American distributor Wrekin Hill Entertainment, which had a high-quality English dub made that was released in America two months before its French release. (It was released in Russia earlier than either.)
This brings us up to date. What about the French animated features like the 2011 Le Chat du Rabbin(The Rabbi’s Cat) or the 2013 The House of Magic, or all of the French Lucky Luke movies over the years with Jolly Jumper, Luke’s faithful talking horse, that contain notable talking animals? I did say that this list is limited to those movies in which the majority of the cast are anthropomorphized animals.
Actually, this list has been cut down from my weekly animation column, Funny Animals and More, on Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research website. I covered all French-language animated theatrical there, featuring anthropomorphic animals or not, between last October and this February. If you want to know about all the French-language animated features – 110 of them – check them out.
Additional Info & Links:
Blackie & Kanuto
Oggy et les Cafards
Moomins on the Riviera
Yellowbird poster & info
Cartoon Research column