Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest
|Azur et Asmar|
Original French theatrical film release poster
|Directed by||Michel Ocelot|
|Produced by||Christophe Rossignon|
|Written by||Michel Ocelot|
|Music by||Gabriel Yared|
|Edited by||Michèle Péju|
Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest (French: Azur et Asmar) is a 2006 French-Spanish-Belgian-Italian computer-animated fairytale fantasy film written and directed by Michel Ocelot and animated at the Paris animation and visual effects studio Mac Guff Ligne. It was released in theaters in North America as just Azur & Asmar.
It is Ocelot's fourth feature, though his first wholly original creation since Kirikou and the Sorceress, and his first use of 3D computer graphics, albeit an atypical employment of this medium with two-dimensional, painted backgrounds and non-photorealistic rendering. Like most of his films it is an original fairy tale, in this case inspired by the folklore (such as the One Thousand and One Nights) and decorative art of North Africa and the Middle East and with an increased degree of characterisation relative to his previous works which pushes it into the genre of fairytale fantasy.
The original-language version of the film has significant amounts of dialogue in both French and Classical Arabic; however, the Arabic was not subtitled in the original French theatrical release and is not indented to be subtitled nor replaced for any other audiences.
Once upon a time there were two children nursed by Jénane: Azur, a blond, blue-eyed son of a nobleman, and Asmar, the tan skinned and dark-eyed child of Jenane. The nurse tells them the story of the Djinn-fairy waiting to be released from her chamber by a good and heroic prince. Brought up together they are as close as brothers until the day Azur's father cruelly separates them, banishing his nurse and Asmar from his home and sending Azur away to the city to receive schooling from a personal tutor. Years later, Azur is haunted by memories of the legendary Djinn-fairy, and takes it upon himself to journey all the way to Asmar's homeland to seek her out and marry her. Now reunited, he finds that Jénane has since become a successful and rich merchant, while Asmar is now a member of the Royal Guard. However, Asmar and Azur's separation has damaged their bond and Asmar also longs to find and marry the Djinn-fairy. They must learn to get along again but only one of the two princes can be successful in his quest.
- Cyril Mourali
- Karim M'Riba
- Hiam Abbass
- Patrick Timsit
- Rayan Mahjoub
- Abdelsselem Ben Amar
- Fatma Ben Khell
- Thissa d'Avila Bensalah
- Sofia Boutella
- Olivier Claverie
- Jacques Pater
- Tayeb Belmihoub
- Franck-Olivier Bonnet
- Carlos Chahine
- Mohamed Damraoui
- Michel Elias
- Bouchra En Nasser
- Nicolas Lormeau
- Tassadit Mandi
- Sonia Mankaï
- Hamid Nasser
- Mohamed Ourdache
- Albert Pariente
- Lahcen Razzougui
- Hichem Rostom
- Mahmoud Said
- Myriam Tekaïa
- Djemal Touidjine
- Hichem Yacoubi
- Omar Yami
- Imogen Bailey
- Sean Barrett
- Freddie Benedict
- Leopold Benedict
- Suzanne David
- Steven Kynman
- Nigel Lambert
- Suzanna Nour
- Nigel Pilkington
- Emma Tate
- Keith Wickham
Ocelot describes the visual style of Azur & Asmar, as distinct from his earlier works, as being influenced by French art and Early Netherlandish painting of the 15th century (in particular, Jean Fouquet, the Limbourg brothers and Jan van Eyck), Persian miniatures and Islamic civilization from the Middle Ages until the 15th century and 16th century Safavid art.
An English-subtitled version was shown at numerous film festivals including the Montreal Film Festival for Children and Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children – in both cases winning the festival's audience award. At the World Festival of Animated Film Zagreb - Animafest Zagreb the film won the Grand Prix - best feature film award in 2007.
The film was subsequently dubbed into English and distributed in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Soda Pictures (now known as Thunderbird Releasing) under the expanded title Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest, receiving a limited release which began on 8 February 2008 and lasted several months, most likely due to the small number of dubbed prints made (as of 27 June 2008, it was still showing at one cinema in Cleethorpes). It was rated U by the British Board of Film Classification for "mild fantasy violence"
The film was licensed for distribution in the United States by the Weinstein Company on 13 February 2007, during European Film Market at the Berlin International Film Festival. However, as of September 2008 – over a year later – no plans to release the film in the United States had been announced. Similarly, Seville Pictures announced that they would distribute the film to both English and French speakers in Canada, but as September 2008 they have only released a DVD with only the original French dialogue and no English subtitles. Some commentators had theorised that a United States release would be impossible due to Jénane's nipples being visible during a breastfeeding scene early in the film (Kirikou and the Sorceress went unrated to avoid the PG-13 or higher rating it would received from the Motion Picture Association of America despite the similarly non-sexual nature of the nudity in that film) and the director's refusal to allow his films to be distributed in a censored version; the Weinsteins' apparent dropping of the title seemed attributable to this. However, in early September 2008 it was revealed to have been submitted to the MPAA by Genius Products (a home media distributor then co-owned the Weinstein Company) and received only a PG rating for "thematic material, some mild action and peril," with no explicit reference made to the nudity.
The British-dubbed version had its American première at IFC Center in New York City on 17 October 2008, and was distributed in theatres by GKIDS in collaboration with the Weinstein Company and under the shorter title of just Azur & Asmar. It was originally planned to run for one week in New York, before touring to other cities. However, due to the success of the first week (all screenings were sold out) its residency was extended for a second week of screenings. When these too sold out, a "third and final" week was announced. Cities it will tour to are expected to include Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Tucson, Hartford, Connecticut, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The film will screen at the San Joaquin Children's Film Festival, in Stockton, California from January 16 to 18, 2009.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Soda Pictures followed their theatrical release with a region 2 DVD-Video release on 28 July 2008. Unlike the theatrical release, this DVD includes the French- and Arabic-language version with English subtitles for the French as well as the English dub.
The Japanese region 2 DVD and region A Blu-ray Disc released on 19 December 2007 and the South Korean region 3 DVD released on 17 July 2008 and all region Blu-ray Disc released on January 29, 2014 all include English subtitles.
As of February 2019, the film is not available in high definition with English subtitles or the English dub on Blu-ray Disc, download or streaming in the United Kingdom, Ireland or United States. However, it can be seen with English subtitles with either of the Japanese or South Korean Blu-ray Disc releases.
Music is by Lebanese-born composer Gabriel Yared with the exception of one short song composed and performed by Afida Tahri; Souad Massi contributes vocals and lyrics to the Yared-composed ending theme "La Chanson d'Azur et Asmar." The score was nominated for the César Award for Best Music Written for a Film at the César Awards 2007.
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- "Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest rated U by the BBFC". British Board of Film Classification. 2008-07-30. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- "Azur and Asmar bought by TWC". Twitch. 2007-02-14. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "Seville Pictures". Archived from the original on 11 September 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
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- Amidi, Amid (2007-02-15). "Azur and Asmar Picked Up By Weinstein Co". Cartoon Brew. Archived from the original on 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "MPAA ratings: Sept. 3, 2008". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Company. 2008-09-03. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- Jesteadt, Dave (2008-10-21). "Comment on Azur et Asmar". harvey @ deneroff.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- "GKIDS - In Theaters". GKIDS.tv. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- "San Joaquin Children's Film Festival". Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- "Azur & Asmar (Blu-ray) (Korea Version)". YesAsia.com. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
- Azur et Asmar (CD liner). Gabriel Yared. Naïve. 2006. U 318125.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Azur & Asmar official United States webpage with dates and locations for nationwide tour
- Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest official United Kingdom and Ireland website
- Azur et Asmar at Le Palais des dessins animés
- Financial Times and GhibliWorld.com interviews
- Production sketches, stills and original trailer