King and the Mockingbird, The

Tagged: Film

French animated film (1980). Original title Le Roi et l'Oiseau. Les Films Paul Grimault, Les Films Gibé, Antenne 2. Directed by Paul Grimault. Written by Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert. Voice cast includes Jean Martin, Pascal Mazzotti, Renaud Marx and Agnès Viala. 87 minutes. Colour.

Begun in 1948 as an adaption of Hans Christian Andersen's The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep (original title Hyrdinden Og Skorstensfejeren, in Nye Eventyr ["New Fairytales"] (coll 1845)), the film was released incomplete, against Grimault and Prévert's wishes, as the 62-minutes La Bergère et le Ramoneur (1952; vt The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird). Grimault obtained the rights to the film in 1967 and, once he obtained sufficient funds, completed it during 1977-1979, using 42 minutes of the original.

King Charles V+III=VIII+VIII=XVI (Mazzotti) of Takicardia detests his subjects and they detest him. Loneliness and hunting are his favourite pastimes, otherwise his days are spent idly in his palace. Those who displease him are dropped – presumably to their death – down the palace's numerous trapdoors: such is the fate of an artist who painted him (accurately) as cross-eyed. The king redoes the eyes and puts the canvas in his bedroom. That night three paintings come to life – those of the uncross-eyed King, a shepherdess (Viala) and a chimney sweep (Marx): the latter pair are lovers and flee, aided by the bird (Martin) of the title. When the original King awakes, the uncross-eyed King disposes of him down a trap door, then pursues the lovers: for kings always marry shepherdesses. Eventually he activates a giant Robot (strictly speaking, a Mecha). The lovers reach the Underground town beneath the palace, whose oppressed, poverty-stricken inhabitants ask whether the Sun really exists. The robot arrives and captures the couple: the shepherdess agrees to marry the king in exchange for the sweep's life. The sweep and bird are forced to work in a factory that mass-produces images of the King, but escape and disrupt the wedding with the help of some big cats. The King grabs the shepherdess and flees in the robot, but the bird takes over the controls, destroying the palace. The King is blown away and the lovers reunited: the final scene is of the robot's fist symbolically crushing a cage.

The film's first half is primarily a fantasy, though the king ascends his architecturally strange but beautiful palace – which is also immensely high – by means of a lift that is, relatively speaking, advanced Technology (and also Spaceship-shaped). The film's latter half, with the introduction of the robot, the Dystopian elements (Takicardia is a police state – see Politics) and the final scene of the robot sitting on the rubble of the palace in the pose of Auguste Rodin's sculpture The Thinker, surrounded by a bleak landscape (see Ruins and Futurity), introduces a more science fictional tone. The animation style is of a colder Disney, with many surreal touches (see Absurdist SF) – both Grimault and Prévert were involved in France's Surrealist movement (the latter being a noted poet and screenwriter). Considered a classic of French animation, it is acknowledged by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli as a major influence on their work. The 1952 version provides one of the earliest uses of the Giant Robot/Mecha in animation. [SP]

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