Continuing my survey of French animation productions – this week French masters René Laloux and Jean Image are joined by the likes of Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera!
Minoïe, directed by Jean Jabely and Philippe Landrot. 80 minutes. December 20, 1981.
Minoïe is described by the French edition of Wikipedia as, “humorous and ecological, in which the stupid, evil sovereign of an industrialized, militaristic island finds himself in rivalry with the inhabitants of the neighboring island who live a simple, back-to-nature life.” (my translation).
Two islands, apparently in the South Pacific, are called “l’Île heureuse” (The Happy Isle) and “l’île du Père”, named after the wise old man who guides its inhabitants. His Highness, the Prince of the industrialized island, has a beautiful palace made of plastic, with mechanical birds, because he is allergic to nature. He governs with the Big Computer and with Madame Astrac, his astrologer. His island is covered with cameras so he can spy everywhere on his dissatisfied people. One day he sees Minoïe, a revolutionary but also very beautiful. He has her taken to his palace (which does not impress her) to become his queen, less because he loves her than that he needs an heir. Meanwhile Tom, a handsome fisherman from the other island, is driven by a storm to accidentally land near the palace. The Prince’s attempt to romance Minoïe is interrupted by Tom’s pet bird, which he is allergic to (and tells Minoïe that their children also will be allergic to). Tom and Minoïe meet, fall in love, and are helped to escape together by the Big Computer and Madame Astrac, who have tired of the Prince’s idiocies. The Prince, furious, orders his “Grand Marchepied” (he presumably means Grand Marshall, but “grand marchepied” means “big footstep”) to capture them immediately.
The marshall sends Agent 18 and Agent 49 to Father’s Isle to get them, but the two spies are so delighted by the beauties of nature that they defect. The Prince, even more furious, personally sails on his Grand Admiralissimo’s humongous warship to Father’s Isle, which he threatens to conquer if Minoïe does not surrender in five minutes. Just as she is about to surrender to save her friends, the Prince gets a radio message from the Big Computer and Madame Astrac that they have deposed him to “il faudrait enlever toute responsabilité à un con tel que vous!” (roughly, “save our island from a [censored] like you!”). The Prince, now really furious, throws off the Grand Admiralissimo and sails back to reconquer the Happy Isle; but the Grand Admiralissimo, fed up, joins the new government and detonates a shipboard atomic self-destruct by remote control. Minoïe and Tom, more-or-less forgotten by the Happy Islanders, live on Father’s Isle happily ever after.
Minoïe was produced from 1973 to 1979, but not released until 1981.
Les Maîtres du Temps (Time Masters), directed by René Laloux. 78 minutes. March 24, 1982.
Laloux’s Les Maîtres du Temps was based on another s-f novel by Stefan Wul, L’Orphelin de Perdide (The Orphan of Perdide), a 1958 surrealistic space opera with even more surrealistic art design by Jean “Möbius” Giraud; produced by Pannónia Filmstúdió in Budapest.
On the planet Perdide, Claude is racing across the desert in his six-wheeled vehicle while talking over a communicator with his close friend Jaffar, in a spaceship several planetary systems away. Claude, a space explorer, tells Jaffar that “they” have just killed his wife, Annie; and he is escaping with their son, Piel, while being pursued by deadly giant hornets. Just before reaching a coral-like forest and safety, Claude crashes. Trapped, he tells Piel, too young to understand what is happening, to run into the forest with “Mike, a magic talking egg” (Claude’s communicator), and to do whatever Mike tells him to. Piel reaches the forest as the vehicle explodes. The child is safe from the hornets, but the forest has its own dangers.
Jaffar, a freelance space pilot, has been travelling with Prince Matton and his sister, Princess Belle. Matton, an arrogant ex-ruler, has just been deposed and exiled from his planet. He has taken a treasure with him that he plans to use to finance his return. When Jaffar gets the emergency call from Claude, he diverts to rescue Piel, to Matton’s displeasure. Before going to Perdide, Jaffar stops at another planet to get advice from his friend Silbad, an old man familiar with Perdide. Silbad finds it easier to join them than to give them instructions. Two of Silbad’s planet’s natives, the fairylike sprites Yula and Jad, stow away in Jaffar’s spaceship, the Double Triangle 22.
The humans try to talk Piel into staying safe, although when he is alone, Prince Matton tries to trick Piel into killing himself so Jaffar will resume taking the royals to their destination. Belle intervenes, starting a romance with Jaffar.
After many adventures with space pirates rescued from Gamma-10, hostile space troops pursuing Matton, Matton’s death, and Silbad’s mortal injury, the group on the Double Triangle 22 run into the mysterious Time Masters who have just sent Perdide sixty years into the past. It looks like Piel is lost, but Jaffar and Belle realize as Silbad is dying that he is Piel grown up, who has lived a full life. Silbad is “buried” in space.
La Revanche des Humanoides (Revenge of the Humanoids), directed by Albert Barillé. 100 minutes. January 26, 1983.
This feature was a condensation of episodes #21 through #26 of the 26-episode TV series Il Était une Fois… l’Espace (Once Upon a Time… Space), a co-production of France’s Procidis and Japan’s Eiken studios that did the animation. It was shown on prime-time French TV from October 9, 1982 to April 2, 1983, and on Japanese TV as a morning children’s cartoon, Ginga Patrol PJ, daily from July 17 to August 22, 1984.
Around 3000 A.D., the Omega Confederation, of which Earth is a member, is led by President Pierrette. Colonel Pierre, her husband, is the commander of its Galaxy Patrol. Their son, Pierrot (Peter), is a young lieutenant (later captain) in the GP. He, his precognitive girlfriend Psi, and Métro (an android with a positronic brain, often dismissed as a robot, smarter than his inventor, Prof. Maestro), are the best team in the GP at defending the Confederation from its enemies, chiefly the militant Republic of Cassiopeia, led by General The Pest and his dwarf henchman.
In this Star Wars-ish story arc, Pierrot, Psi, and Métro are returning to Omega from a routine mission when they run into gigantic Death Star-like Cassiopeian spaceships practicing military maneuvers. They observe to report this to Omega, but the backlash from the energy blasts throws them out of control and they crash on a primitive planet. Psi is captured by Cassiopeian Humanoid allies, while Pierrot and Métro join a mostly-human rebel underground that is fighting both the planet’s hostile natives and the Humanoids. But the Humanoids have their own plans which neither Omega nor Cassiopeia expect.
Bonne Journée, Monsieur M, directed by Heidi Blomqvist. 56 minutes. 1983.
Here is another mystery title, listed only on IMDb and several “watch now free” download sites that Jerry Beck says don’t work. The only other listing for Heidi Blomqvist is also on IMDb, which says that she was/is a little girl who played an elementary-school student in a Finnish live-action TV series in 1998. It doesn’t seem that it could be the same person. Anyone have info on this film? Is it another bogus title?
Les Dalton en Cavale (The Daltons On the Loose), directed by Joseph Barbara & William Hanna, Morris, and Ray Patterson. 82 minutes. December 14, 1983.
This was released theatrically in France, but was a Hanna-Barbara co-production with Dargaud Films, Gaumont Film Company, and France 3. Produced at Hanna-Barbera in Los Angeles? Any information would be appreciated.
The feature is just an animated compilation of three Lucky Luke albums by Morris & Goscinny: Les Dalton dans le Blizzard (LL #22, 1963); Ma Dalton (LL #38, 1971); and Les Dalton se Rachetent (The Daltons Reform; LL #26, 1965). In the first, the four Daltons break out of prison and escape to Canada, followed by Luke and the prison’s comedy-relief guard dog, Ran Tan Plan. Lots of Frozen Northland and Canadian Mounties jokes follow. Luke returns them to the prison, but in the second the Daltons escape again and hide out with their old mother. Luke is handicapped because he won’t hit a sweet old lady, even when she’s an old £#¢∞¡§¶. In the third, the Daltons have to be paroled when they swear that they’ve reformed. Nobody really believes them, so Luke agrees to follow and rearrest them at the first sign that they’re pretending. The trouble is that none of the townsfolk believe them, either. Luke has to manufacture opportunities for them to show that they’ve reformed before he can be sure that they’re faking it; while the Daltons grow so frustrated trying to prove they’ve turned honest that they almost do for real.
Note that in this 1983 film clip, Luke is chewing on a straw instead smoking a cigarette as in the previous Lucky Luke movies. The PC police caught up with him.
Le Secret des Sélénites (Moon Madness), directed by Jean Image. 82 minutes. February 1, 1984.
Image’s sequel to his 1979 Les Fabuleuses Aventures du Légendaire Baron de Munchausen, very loosely based on the Baron’s and his companions’ later adventures after they got to the Moon. Image jettisons the 1780s tall tales for a new plot involving Sirius, the Baron’s astrologer cousin (set in 1787 but the Baron and Sirius dance a jitterbug); the immortal bright yellow, three-legged Sélénites; and the evil Vertprés (Green Meanies).
This was the last feature of the animator Jean Image (Imre Hadjú, 1910-1989). Music by Shuki Levy & Haïm Saban, who would go on to greater fame in America.
Les Boulugres, directed by Jean Hurtado. 75 minutes. March 6-10, 1984.
Very avant-garde art design and screenplay by Jean Hurtado. Herbert, a Candide-like idealistic teenager, wants to become a doctor to help humanity, but his parents insist that he become a rich aviator. Herbert runs away to study medicine with a wise old Boulugre, and vows to help the natives of undeveloped countries. He finds that the Boulugres are a tribe whose men have a disgusting mushroom growing from their heads. He develops a vaccine for them, wants to give it to them free, and fights with Chousk, a pharmaceutical tycoon who wants to sell it to them. But the Boulugres are deathly afraid of needles and refuse to be inoculated by anyone. Herbert, disillusioned, escapes into love with a Yugoslav airline stewardess.
Les Boulugres was produced from 1979 through 1983, but it was never theatrically released. It was screened at the 9th Festival du Film d’Humour de Chamrousse, March 6-10, 1984.
Gwen (le Livre de Sable) (Gwen, the Book of Sand), directed by Jean-François Laguionie. 67 minutes. February 6, 1985.
Jean-François Laguionie (1939-present) began his career during the Belvision years, though he is better-known as a fine-art animation creator than as a commercial director. He was inspired by Paul Grimault’s early 1950s release of La Bergère et le Ramoneur (The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep). His first animated short, the 9-minute La Demoiselle et le Violoncelliste (The Girl and the Cellist), won the Annecy Grand Prix in 1965. He made several other animated shorts through the 1980s, climaxing with the 24-minute La Traversée de l’Atlantique à la Rame (Rowing Across the Atlantic), which won the César Award for best animated short in 1979, in 1978.
Laguionie then started making features, creating his own animation studio, La Fabrique, to do so. His first was the dramatic 67-minute Gwen (le Livre de Sable), animated in gouache paintings with the assistance of well-known French artists. Since it is almost impossible to animate gouache paintings, the animation is very limited but beautiful. Gwen shared the Grand Jury/Critics Prize with Richard Condie’s The Big Snit at the 1985 Festival International du Film d’Animation d’Annecy/Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
Gwen is a 13-year-old girl adopted by a tribe of desert nomads that hunt ostriches, living in a post-apocalyptic world. A mysterious being, the Makou (Terrible Thing), occasionally rains huge enlargements of common 20th-century objects such as a telephone, a suitcase, a mattress, a washbasin, a coffee pot, a clock, or a radiator from the sky. One day Gwen’s best friend, the boy Nok-Moon, disappears; apparently kidnapped by the Makou. Gwen sets out with Roseline, an old woman, to find him. They find an isolated city inhabited by people trying to maintain the old civilization, based on a single ancient book – a “Manufrance” retail catalogue showing objects like those the Makou is dropping …
Astérix et la Surprise de César (Astérix and Caesar; Astérix versus Caesar), directed by Gaëtan & Paul Brizzi. 79 minutes. December 11, 1985.
The production credits now read Dargaud Films, Gaumont International, and Gutenberghus. The movie was adopted mainly from the albums Astérix Gladiateur (#4, 1964), and Astérix Légionnaire (#10, 1967).
Obélix falls in love with Chief Vitalstatix’s beautiful daughter Panacea, but is resigned to being just a friend when he learns that she loves handsome Tragicomix. The two, walking in the woods, are captured by a squad of Roman soldiers led by a new recruit unfamiliar with the Gauls. The Roman Centurion, horrified by the expected Gaul’s attack to get them back, sends Panacea and Tragicomix as far away as he can – to the other side of the Roman Empire, in the Sahara Desert. Astérix and Obélix (with Idéfix the dog), sent to find the lovers, join the Roman legions to do so. Jokes from Astérix Légionnaire follow. Meanwhile, Panacea and Tragicomix escape, are captured by a slave trader, and are sold to the head of Rome’s Gladiator School who gives them to Julius Caesar to ingratiate him; but the two Gauls anger Caesar and he orders them fed to the lions in the Colosseum. Astérix & Obélix leave the legion and follow the lovers to Rome, where the head of the Gladiator School is so impressed by their strength that he orders them captured for the Colosseum. Obélix & Idéfix escape, while Astérix loses his magic potion and is captured. That night there is a heavy rainstorm that almost drowns Astérix in his cell, and sweeps Idéfix into Rome’s sewers just as he is about to find the potion. In the Colosseum’s arena (which has an exciting chariot race), Asterix & Obélix, who has joined him, make a laughing stock of the Roman Games through trickery. Just as the irate Caesar orders the lions released, Idéfix arrives with the potion. Astérix, Obélix, and Tragicomix cause so much destruction that Caesar gives him their freedom to return to Gaul, to get rid of them.
Next week: A seasonal interruption.