Michel Ocelot

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Michel Ocelot
Michel Ocelot 2013.jpg
EducationEcole régionale des Beaux-Arts, Angers
École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs, Paris
California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles
TitlePresident of ASIFA
PredecessorRaoul Servais
SuccessorAbi Feijò
AwardsChevalier of the Légion d'honneur[2]

Michel Ocelot is a French writer, designer, storyboard artist and director of animated films and television programs (formerly also animator, background artist, narrator and other roles in earlier works) and a former president of the International Animated Film Association.[3] Though best known for his 1998 debut feature Kirikou and the Sorceress, his earlier films and television work had already won Césars[4] and British Academy Film Awards[5] among others and he was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur on 23 October 2009, presented to him by Agnès Varda who had been promoted to commandeur earlier the same year.[2] In 2015 he got the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Festival of Animated Film - Animafest Zagreb.[6]


He was born in 1943 to a Catholic[7] family then in Villefranche-sur-Mer,[1] on the French Riviera, who relocated to Guinea, West Africa for much of his childhood, moving back to Anjou in France during his adolescence. As a teenager he played with and created toy theatre productions[1] and was inspired to become an animator through viewing Hermína Týrlová's Vzpoura hraček (The Revolt of Toys, 1946)[8][9] and discovering a book on DIY stop motion animation. He was never formally taught animation, however, and instead studied the decorative arts, first at the Ecole régionale des Beaux-Arts in Angers, then the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris and the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.[10] He now lives and operates from an atelier-apartment in Paris.

His œuvre is characterised by having worked in a variety of animation techniques, typically employing a different medium for each new project, but almost exclusively within the genres of fairy tales and fairytale fantasy. Some, such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, are loose adaptations of existing folk tales, others are original stories constructed from the "building blocks" of such tales. He describes the process as "I play with balls that innumerable jugglers have already used for countless centuries. These balls, passed down from hand to hand, are not new. But today I'm the one doing the juggling."[11] Visually, they are characterised by a rigid use, excepting brief transitions between them, of the side-on, straight-on and ¾ viewpoints [1] of silhouette and cutout animation (such as that of Lotte Reiniger[12] and Karel Zeman) even when working in mediums which allow for greater flexibility and dynamic viewpoints. Though often likened to Reiniger,[13] he himself finds her films "rather archaic and not very attractive"[14] and does not list them among his favourites.[10] He also admires the art of ancient Egypt, pottery of ancient Greece, Hokusai and illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, W. Heath Robinson and his brothers and, most of all, Aubrey Beardsley.[15] He was president of the Association international du film d'animation (ASIFA) from 1994 to 2000.

While already a household name in much of continental Europe, and greatly respected by Studio Ghibli's Isao Takahata (who has directed the Japanese dubs of his films), his success in the more conservative markets of the United Kingdom, United States and Germany has been restricted by a mixed reaction to the realistic and non-sexual, but nevertheless omnipresent nudity in his breakout film Kirikou and the Sorceress. Although all of these countries' boards of film classification have approved it as being suitable for all ages, cinemas and TV channels have been reluctant to show it due to the possible backlash from offended parents. In 2007, he gained some further recognition within the English-speaking world by directing a music video for the Icelandic musician Björk, the lead single from her album Volta.

In another, 2008 interview he mentioned as further examples of favourite and influential artistic works Voltaire's letters, The Heron and the Crane, Crac, Father and Daughter, the first part of Grand Illusion, Neighbors, the Eiffel Tower, Millesgården, Persian miniatures, Jean Giraud's free drawing and illustrations by Kay Nielsen.[16]


Year Title (English) Format Medium Other notes
1974 Le Tabac (The Newsagent) 1 min. short film
1976 Gédéon (Gideon) 60 × 5 min. TV series Cut-out animation Based on the comics by Benjamin Rabier
1979 Les Trois Inventeurs
(The Three Inventors)
13 min. short film Cut-out animation Winner of best animated short at the 34th British Academy Film Awards,[5] Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films[1] 1980 [2] and Odense Film Festival 1981 (tied with Crac !)[3][permanent dead link]
Extract featured in the "Globe Trotting" segment of the 2003 documentary The Animated Century[17]
1981 Les Filles de l'égalité
(Daughters of Equality)
1 min. short film Traditional animation Full transfer available on YouTube from production company aaa
1982 Beyond Oil 20 min. educational film Cut-out animation Animated segments only; live action directed by Philippe Vallois

Full transfer available on YouTube from production company aaa

La Légende du pauvre bossu (The Legend of the Poor Hunchback) 7 min. short film Animatic Winner of best animated short at the César Awards 1983[4]
1983 La Princesse insensible
(The Impassive Princess)
13 × 4 min. TV series [4] Mixed[12]
1987 Les Quatre Vœux
(The Four Wishes)
5 min. short film Traditional animation Featured in the 1989 package film Outrageous Animation[5] assembled and distributed in cinemas and on home video in North America by Expanded Cinema[18]
1989 Ciné si 8 × 12 min. TV series Mixed silhouette animation[10] Winner of best TV series episode at the Ottawa International Animation Festival 1990 [6][dead link] and Annecy International Animated Film Festival 1991 [7][better source needed]
Compiled into Princes et princesses
1992 Les Contes de la nuit
(Tales of the Night)
26 min. TV special Mixed silhouette animation Contains "La Belle Fille et le sorcier" ("The Beautiful Girl and the Sorcerer"), "Bergère qui danse" ("The Dancing Shepherdess") and "Le Prince des joyaux" ("Prince of the Gems")
1998 Kirikou et la Sorcière
(Kirikou and the Sorceress)
71 min. feature film Digital traditional animation Winner of best animated feature at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 1999 [8] and best European feature at the British Animation Awards 2002 (tied with Chicken Run)
2000 Princes et Princesses
(Princes and Princesses)
70 min. feature film Mixed silhouette animation Compilation movie of Ciné si[1]
2005 Kirikou et les Bêtes sauvages
(Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, aka Kirikou and the Wild Beast)
75 min. feature film Digital traditional animation Co-directed with Bénédicte Galup
2006 Azur et Asmar
(Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest, aka Azur & Asmar)
90 min. feature film[19] Computer animation Winner of best animated feature at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films 2007 [9]
Also serves as voice director for the English version
2007 "Earth Intruders" 4 min. music video for Björk Mixed Nominated for best video at the Q Awards 2007 [10]
Kirikou et Karaba
(Kirikou and Karaba)
Play Musical theatre
2008 L'Invité aux noces
(The Wedding Guest)
Original video short Animatic
2010 Dragons et Princesses
(Dragons and Princesses)
10 × 13 min. TV series for Canal+ Silhouette computer animation[20] Winner of special award for a TV series at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2010[21]
Compiled into Les Contes de la nuit (2011)
2011 Les Contes de la nuit
(Tales of the Night)
84 min. feature film Silhouette computer animation Compilation movie of Dragons et Princesses
Premièred in competition for the Golden Bear at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival[22] and screening in competition at the Sitges Film Festival 2011[23]
2012 Kirikou et les Hommes et les Femmes (Kirikou and the Men and Women)[24] 88 min. feature film Computer animation
2018 Dilili à Paris (Dilili in Paris)[25] Feature film Computer animation


  1. ^ a b c d e Pilling, Jayne (2001). 2D and Beyond. Animation. Hove: RotoVision. pp. 109, 153. ISBN 2-88046-445-5.
  2. ^ a b Brane, Edouard (26 October 2009). "Le papa de "Kirikou" reçoit la Légion d'Honneur" (in French). AlloCiné. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Azur & Asmar press pack" (PDF) (Press release). Soda Pictures. 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-05.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b http://www.lescesarducinema.com
  5. ^ a b http://www.bafta.org/awards/film/nominations/?year=1980
  6. ^ "Animafest 2015. Lifetime Achievement Award".
  7. ^ Leroy, Elodie (2008-01-09). "Interview : Michel Ocelot (Azur et Asmar)". DVDrama.com (in French). p. 3. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  8. ^ "Bring me beauty". Little White Lies. London: Story. 12 (The Tales from Earthsea Issue).
  9. ^ "Travelling Cine-meeting 'Remembering and Forgetting'". Asociace českých filmových klubů. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-10-19.
  10. ^ a b c Sifianos, Georges (1991). "Une technique idéale". Positif (in French). 370: 102–104.
  11. ^ Bazou, Sébastien (2008). "Princes et princesses : Les contes de fées revisités". ArteFake.com (in French). Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  12. ^ a b Taylor, Richard (1996). The Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques. Oxford: Focal Press. pp. 146–147. ISBN 0-240-51576-5.
  13. ^ Fritz, Steve (2008-10-16). "Animated Shorts: Michel Ocelot's Azur and Asmar". Newsarama.com. Imaginova. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  14. ^ Ocelot, Michel (Director) (2008-10-22). Les Secrets de fabrication de Michel Ocelot (Documentary). Paris: France Télévisions. I'd found Lotte Reiniger's films rather archaic and not very attractive but I thought to myself, 'It'll be fine for children.'
  15. ^ Andrews, Nigel (2006-10-22). "Fabulist of filmmaking". FT.com. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
  16. ^ Dalquié, Delphine (2008). "Michel Ocelot : Interview". Fascineshion.com. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  17. ^ "The Animated Century". Rembrandt Films. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  18. ^ Cohen, Karl F. (1997). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons And Blacklisted Animators in America. Jefferson: McFarland. pp. 102–104.
  19. ^ Recio, Lorenzo (2005-11-21). "Portrait : Michel Ocelot". Court-circuit (in French). Arte. Archived from the original on 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
  20. ^ "Dragons et princesses". Nord-Ouest. 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009.
  21. ^ "2010 award winners". Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-01-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Les Contes de la nuit 3D". Sitges Film Festival. 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  24. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (January 27, 2011). ""Rebecca et le sorcier" : Mon interview "animé" avec Michel Ocelot" (in French). Premiere.fr. Archived from the original on 2011-01-30. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  25. ^ https://www.cartoonbrew.com/awards/3-animated-features-4-shorts-nominated-for-frances-cesar-awards-169474.html

Further reading[edit]

  • Jouvanceau, Pierre (2004). The Silhouette Film. Pagine di Chiavari. trans. Kitson. Genoa: Le Mani. ISBN 88-8012-299-1.
  • Lugt, Peter van der (2008-08-25). "This is Animation". GhibliWorld.com. Archived from the original on 2008-08-29. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
  • Pilling, Jayne (2001). "The storyteller". 2D and Beyond. Animation. Hove: RotoVision. pp. 100–109, 153. ISBN 2-88046-445-5.

External links[edit]