Continuing my survey of French animated features, this week we look at those from the mid-to-late 1970s.
Le Tour du Monde de Colargol, directed by Tadeusz Wilkosz. 1974 on TV; October 3, 1976 theatrically.
Colargol, the little bear cub, was created during the 1950s in stories by Olga Pouchine of France. In 1969 French producer Albert Barillé failed to get funding for a TV series from the ORTF, and produced it himself, with animator Tadeusz Wilkosz of the Polish studio Se-ma-for as director. 53 13-minute stop-motion TV episodes were made. It was shown on French TV as Les Aventures de Colargol from November 9, 1970 through 1974; on Polish TV as Przygody Misia Colargola; in Britain as Barnaby, and in Canada and Ireland as Jeremy the Bear. This feature is apparently a compilation of TV episodes. It was shown on French TV during 1974, but did not have a theatrical premiere until October 3, 1976 in Finland.
My translation of a French synopsis of the TV series: Colargol is a bear cub who only thinks of singing; but whenever he opens his mouth, it’s a catastrophe! His friends the birds take him to the king of the birds, who gives him a whistle that makes him a singing bear.
Les Douze Travaux d’Astérix (The Twelve Labors of Astérix), directed by René Goscinny, Henri Gruel, cartoonist Albert Uderzo, and Pierre Watrin. 82 minutes. October 20, 1976.
The little Gallic village beats the Romans so often that they decide the Gauls must be gods. Julius Caesar scoffs and asks Chief Vitalstastix to prove it by succeeding at twelve labors; modernizations of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Vitalstastix assigns Astérix and Obelix to the job, accompanied by Roman scribe Caius Tiddlus. The movie is the series of each adventure. When the two Gauls succeed at all twelve, Caesar agrees that they must be gods. He turns the Roman Empire over to them and retires with Cleopatra to a little country villa. At the Gauls’ usual victory feast, Obélix asks Astérix if they have just conquered the whole Roman Empire? Astérix answers that it has only been an animated cartoon, where anything can happen.
The movie is an original story by Goscinny, although Uderzo turned it into a comic book later. Goscinny’s and Uderzo’s new Studios Idéfix, in co-production with Dargaud Films and Les Productions René Goscinny, took over the Astérix the Gaul animated features from Belvision Studios.
La Ballade des Daltons, directed by René Goscinny, Henri Gruel, cartoonist Morris (Maurice De Bévère), and Pierre Watrin. 82 minutes. October 25, 1978.
A saloon entertainer with a banjo tells this as a song. The criminal Dalton Brothers (Joe, William, Jack, and Averell; four lookalikes ascending in size and stupidity) are finally thrown into prison for 2,400 years. They are visited by a lawyer, Augustus Betting, who informs them that their uncle Henry has just been hanged. He had gotten illegally rich during his career, and he has left everything to his nephews IF they will kill the judge and 8-man jury that sentenced him to death. A requirement is that they must be accompanied by Lucky Luke, the only man honest enough to confirm that they have completed the job. Otherwise, his money goes to charity. The Daltons break out of jail and, with prison guard dog Ran Tan Plan (Rin Tin Can), “the stupidest dog in the West”, find and force Luke to accompany them. Luke agrees to go along while tricking the Daltons into believing that they are killing the judge and jury, whom he helps to secretly survive.
Co-produced by Studios Idéfix, Dargaud Films, and Les Productions René Goscinny. (This must have been Goscinny’s swan song. He died unexpectedly on November 5, 1977, ironically of a heart attack while in his doctor’s office having his health checked). On July 31, 1990, Disney released The Ballad of the Daltons on a 25-minute Buena Vista Home Entertainment video. The information is vague as to whether this was a condensation of the 1978 82-minute feature, or a new production. Many Lucky Luke aficionados consider this to be still the best of all the Lucky Luke movies.
Pluk, Naufragé de l’Espace, directed by Jean Image. 74 minutes. March 17, 1979.
A.k.a. Pluk in The Cosmos; Pluk, Shipwrecked in Outer Space; and Little Orbit the Astrodog and the Screechers from Outer Space. Pluk, a robot in his spaceship Le Cosmos, is pursued through the galaxy by enemy spaceships. His spaceship is captured but he escapes into space. He heads for the nearest planet, Earth. There he meets Niki, a rich young boy who loves s-f and is building a spaceship, and his sword-fighting dog Jupiter. Pluk offers to make Niki’s l’Arago X-001 into a real spaceship if they will help him to get Le Cosmos back. Pluk, Niki, Jupiter, and Niki’s playmate Babette have space adventures with the unfriendly inhabitants of the Red and Green Planets; Jupiter saves them from death; and they eventually get Le Cosmos back. Pluk takes them to his planet, Plukastre, for a victory celebration.
Les Fabuleuses Aventures du Légendaire Baron de Munchausen, directed by Jean Image. 78 minutes. October 24, 1979.
Based on Gottfried August Bürger’s 1786 novelization of the tall tales of Baron Munchausen (correctly Münchhausen): riding a wolf after the wolf eats his horse, riding the cannonball during the Russian wars with the Turks, etc.
Les Naufragés de Terra II (The Shipwrecked of Terra II), directed by Alain-Christian Huber. 62 minutes. 1979.
A real mystery! Does this feature really exist? The above information is from IMDb; and that is the only information about it, or about Alain-Christian Huber, on the Internet, except for a couple of streaming websites that offer it, but that Jerry Beck says appear to be bogus. They don’t download anything, anyway. IMDb says that this feature was produced in 1979 by Lions Films, but a websearch for Lions Films brings only a tiny company by that name founded in 1990 that has never produced a feature. Could this be an imaginary entry created by IMDb to catch anyone stealing its information?
Le Roi et l’Oiseau (The King and the Bird), directed by Paul Grimault. 83 minutes. March 19, 1980.
Paul Grimault’s Le Roi et l’Oiseau (The King and the Bird) was covered a couple of columns ago for its 1952 release against Grimault’s wishes. He spent the next 28 years working on it. On March 19, 1980, Grimault finally released his ”corrected” version. Which is better is a matter of opinion. His other animation during this period is negligible except for the 1988 La Table Tournante.
Le Chaïnon Manquant (The Missing Link), directed by Picha. 95 minutes. May 21, 1980.
In 196,303 B.C., a group of cavemen, in particular one named O, have raunchy misadventures with dinosaurs while discovering/inventing sex, in Picha’s satire of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The dialogue was considerably bowdlerized for the U.S. to avoid an X-rating. Animation was stretched over Belgium, France, London, and New York. A selection of the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. Released in the U.S. as B.C. Rock.
Next Week: 1981 – 1985.