Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer. There will be four parts.
French (meaning French-language, whether produced in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, or the French-speaking part of Switzerland) anthro theatrical features have been in the news since the subtitled 2013 U.S. release (English-language dub in 2014) of the 2012 Belgian Ernest & Célestine, about the forbidden friendship between a mouse and a bear in a civilization of both. Right now, there is also Yellowbird.
French-language anthro theatrical features are older than most Americans think. Here is a chronological annotated list.
First, some rules. This list consists of those French-language theatrical features (no shorts or TV animation like the 1987 Moi Renart) that feature anthropomorphic animals as the only or majority of the cast. It does not include those featuring mostly humans with only one or two anthro animals, such as the Lucky Luke Westerns with Jolly Jumper, Luke’s talking horse; even when the animal(s) is the main star, such as the 2008 Fly Me to the Moon (three housefly astronauts meet Buzz Aldrin; ho ho) or the 2009 La Véritable Histoire du Chat Botté (The True Story of Puss in Boots) or the 2012 Sur la Piste du Marsupilami (On the Trail of the Marsupilami). It does not include any movies about living toys, fairies, gremlins, elves, or Smurfs.
Le Roman de Renard (The Story of the Fox), directed by Ladislas Starevich. 65 minutes. April 10, 1941.
This is a dubious “French” film with a dubious release date. Starevich (or Starewicz) began making stop-motion films in Russia in 1911. He emigrated to escape the Russian Revolution, and only happened to be in Paris during 1929 and 1930 when he and his wife Irene animated Le Roman de Renard. The animation turned out to be easier than the sound track, which was finally funded in Germany and premiered in Berlin as Reinicke Fuchs on April 10, 1937. The French edit, which is the best-known today, was released exactly four years later on April 10, 1941.
The film is presented as “the oldest and most beautiful story known to us animals”, as narrated by an elderly monkey dressed as a Medieval scholar. The scenario is credited to Irène Starevich, but it is essentially Le Roman de Renart as finalized in literary form by the Renaissance, especially in Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1794 Reineke Fuchs epic poem. By the 1920s almost every standard edition of Goethe’s poem had the 1840s illustrations by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, and the Starevich’s stop-motion models look very similar to these. If you know the 12th-century animal folk tale about Baron Renard the Fox at the court of King Lion, you know the plot of the movie.
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