Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Michel Ocelot, Acclaimed Animator and "Enchanter"

Michel’s Ocelot’s happy childhood is perhaps the reason behind his desire “to enchant” his audience with his stunning animated films. I have been under his spell since viewing Kirkou and the Sorceress, Princes and Princesses and Azur and Asmar in various years at Sprockets: Toronto International Film Festival for Children. Colour and the African presence is a common theme in his work—an influence of his spending a few years of his childhood in Guinea. Returning to France every summer, it always took him a few days to adjust to the “colourless people in the street”.

Speaking to him from his home in Paris, the former two-time President of the Association Internationale du Film d'Animation, becomes the most excited when speaking about his desire to return to the style of Princes. Kirkou expresses Ocelot’s skill in classic animation, Azur his ability to work in 2D as well as 3D, but Princes is perhaps the most taxing as it is painstakingly done in stop-motion animation, with each hinged, silhouetted figure positioned before it is filmed. Passion rather than patience is what drives his creative spirit, and allows him to endure the time it takes to make this type of animation.

I wish everyone could see his films in the theatre with the large screen that his images deserve (a treasure box of jewel tones) and with the professional sound that the music (his films feature such talents as Youssou N’Dour and Gabriel Yared) in his films warrant. Unfortunately, North American bias (Disney rules the screens), and fear of nudity, even in innocent circumstances (native women in Kirkou wear wraps that leave the breasts exposed, and Azur has a breast-feeding wet nurse) has meant that distribution and promotion of Ocelot’s films has been limited in our part of the world. His films do quite well in Quebec, other French speaking nations, and he is very much appreciated in Japan, but he has yet to crack the English speaking market. Fortunately, his work is available on DVD for those of us who, like Ocelot, love “eating up images” with our eyes and enjoy the “beauty of people”.*


*Most of Ocelot's work is available with French and English audio.

Shout Out!
Merci mille fois to Marie-Thérèse Lamothe and Remstar for the Kirikou DVD giveaways.

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