Once Upon a Time... Life

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Once Upon a Time... Life
Created byAlbert Barillé
Developed byProcidis
Voices ofRoger Carel
Marie-Laure Beneston
Gilles Laurent
Gilles Tamiz
Alain Dorval
ComposerMichel Legrand
Country of originFrance
No. of episodes26
Running time26 minutes
Original networkFR3
Picture formatSECAM (576i)
Original releaseSeptember 13, 1987 (1987-09-13) –
March 13, 1988 (1988-03-13)
Preceded byOnce Upon a Time... Space (1982)
Followed byOnce Upon a Time... The Americas (1991)

Il était une fois... la vie, also known as Micro Patrol (生命の科学ミクロパトロール, Seimei no Kagaku: Mikuropatorōru), is a French animated series which tells the story of the human body for children. The program was originally produced in France in 1987 by Procidis and directed by Albert Barillé. The series consists of 26 episodes and originally was aired on the French channel Canal+, and then on the state-owned channel FR3. It is the third part of the Once Upon a Time... series.

Once Upon a Time... Life brought back the edutainment formula that had largely been left out on Once Upon a Time... Space. The series combined entertaining storylines with factual information, presented metaphorically.[citation needed]


The series Once Upon a Time... Life used the same recurring lead characters as the other Once Upon a Time... series: certain represent the cells that make up the body's systems and defense mechanisms, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, while antagonists represent viruses and bacteria that threaten to attack the human body. Every episode of the series featured a different organ or system within the human body (like the brain, the heart, the circulatory system, etc.).[citation needed]

In the French-language version of the series, the opening theme song "L'hymne à la vie" (French for "hymn for life") by Michel Legrand was performed by Sandra Kim,[1] the winner of the 1986 Eurovision contest.[2]

The series was aired in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Soviet Union, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe.[citation needed]


The series makes use of recurring human characters originally from Once Upon a Time... Man. Every character in the series appeared as a real person (the old intelligent doctor, the dedicated blonde mother, the boy and the girl, their obese friend, and the pair of bullies) and anthropomorphic representations of cells and cellular functions within the human body.

  • The manager of the brain – represented by Maestro, the bearded old man.
  • The manager of the cell nucleus – represented by Maestro, usually asleep in his chair.
  • Enzymes – The human body's workmen, shown usually as a man in a bib overall and a baseball-type cap.
    • Digestive enzymes - Works of digestion. Some enzymes are shown as female and most as male. The females are only seen in the stomach. The males appear in the stomach and small intestine.
  • Hormones – messengers for the body, represented as humanoid robotic outboard motors spray-painted according to function; those representing thyroxine are given life by iodine. These hormones are all female.
  • Red blood cells – represented by red humanoids: elderly Professor Globus, who tells a lot about how the body works; Hemo; and his inquisitive and mischievous friend Globin. They carry oxygen bubbles or carbon dioxide bubbles in a back pouch, becoming dark red when carrying carbon dioxide.
  • Neurotransmitters-The blue speedy guys that can deliver messages as papers or passengers through nerves and stations. They are mostly running anytime on delivery, and pick up or drop off passenger times until they reach the end.
  • Platelets – represented as red disks with a face, legs and arms.
  • White blood cells – The body's police force.
    • Neutrophil granulocytes – represented by foot-patrol "policemen" which are completely white in color, and wear a yellow star badge. They carry batons and swallow any parasites that they find. They can clone themselves. Most of the time they function as traffic cops. Their commander is the same but with a Caucasian head, and is named Jumbo or Jumbo Junior.
    • The Lymphocytes – represented by:
      • Lymphocytes B as marshals in a small one-man round flying craft with two aimable side-mounted hydrojet propulsors; two of them are a version of Peter and Psi (named Captain Peter and Lieutenant Claire). Some other (unnamed) B cell pilot characters each appear more than once, for example a spotty-faced teenage boy. They can drop antibodies from an underbelly bomb bay. They can divide; this duplicates craft and pilot. Their uniforms are very light blue with shoulder pads. (Those uniforms appear in the outside world in a few futuristic scenes as astronaut uniforms/undersuits.)
      • Lymphocytes T: the same sort of craft but with a large uppercase T on the underbelly at the bow. They can discharge smoke that kills bacteria.
    • Phagocyte: hovering spherical craft with several large suction tubes coming out of them. A pilot's head can be seen through a small canopy on top. They can emit smoke which kills bacteria.
    • Basophils: plump women who carry a basket of "histamine grenades" and throw them to attack bacteria.
    • Macrophages (as big yellow ground vehicles shaped like frog heads with a big front scoop grab and three wheels; each "eye" is a small canopy revealing a pilot's head), "the cleaning services of the body". Most of the time they function by removing the waste of the body and during emergency times they eat the bacteria and viruses.
    • Immature leucocytes: teenage humanoids with the same uniform as the lymphocyte B pilots: seen in the bone marrow, which is represented as a police training college.
  • The antibodies – as small white insectoid characters which after being launched at infectious agents, fly around the bacteria or viruses and paralyze them. Their commander is named Metro.
  • The Pathogens are the main antagonists of the series. They are the characters that make people sick. The other antagonists are the Immature leukocytes in Bone Marrow,
    • The bacteria (represented as blue bullies) – the big bully. Mostly blue in color.
    • The viruses (represented as yellow worms with hands) – the smaller bully. Mostly yellow in color.
  • Organic molecules, which are represented in two cases as characters.
    • Fats/Fatty acids: Represented as fat yellow ponies.
    • Proteins : Represented as a tall, strong, and muscular orange character in overalls with some doglike features.
    • Sugars : Small green-and-purple hexagons and pentagons. Sometimes appear as candylike characters.
    • Amino acids : Similar appearance to antibodies, generally invisible until the episode dealing with protein synthesis.
    • DNA/RNA : Represented quite accurately, and in detail when explaining protein synthesis.
    • Vitamins : Represented as colored living letters. As seen in the lymphatic system, P is present but rarely.
    • Cholesterol : Yellow crawling characters that can block a passage in a blood vessel, as seen in the liver factory, when the cholesterol came around leukocytes, which caused this blockage and this also made the erythrocytes stop.
  • Gall/Bile : Blue-green-colored liquid that makes the fats shrink, as seen in Digestion.

The series describes a "society inside the body" with a strong pyramidal stratification of work.[3]


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"The Cell Planet"
"(La planète cellule)"
13 September 1987 (1987-09-13)
"(La naissance)"
20 September 1987 (1987-09-20)
3"The Body's Sentinels"
"(Les sentinelles du corps)"
27 September 1987 (1987-09-27)
4"The Bone Marrow"
"(La moelle osseuse)"
7 October 1987 (1987-10-07)
5"The Blood"
"(Le sang)"
11 October 1987 (1987-10-11)
6"The Tiny Platelets"
"(Les petites plaquettes)"
18 October 1987 (1987-10-18)
7"The Heart"
"(Le cœur)"
25 October 1987 (1987-10-25)
"(La respiration)"
1 November 1987 (1987-11-01)
9"The Brain"
"(Le cerveau)"
8 November 1987 (1987-11-08)
10"The Neurones"
"(Les neurones)"
15 November 1987 (1987-11-15)
11"The Eye"
22 November 1987 (1987-11-22)
12"The Ear"
29 November 1987 (1987-11-29)
13"The Skin"
"(La peau)"
6 December 1987 (1987-12-06)
14"The Mouth and the Teeth"
"(La bouche et les dents)"
13 December 1987 (1987-12-13)
15"The Digestion"
"(La digestion)"
20 December 1987 (1987-12-20)
16"The Liver Factory"
"(L'usine du foie)"
27 December 1987 (1987-12-27)
17"The Kidneys"
"(Les reins)"
3 January 1988 (1988-01-03)
18"The Lymphatic System"
"(Le système lymphatique)"
10 January 1988 (1988-01-10)
19"The Bones and the Skeleton"
"(Les os et le squelette)"
17 January 1988 (1988-01-17)
20"The Muscles and the Fat"
"(Les muscles et la graisse)"
24 January 1988 (1988-01-24)
21"Toxin Wars"
"(Guerre aux toxines)"
31 January 1988 (1988-01-31)
22"The Vaccination"
"(La vaccination)"
7 February 1988 (1988-02-07)
23"The Hormones"
"(Les hormones)"
14 February 1988 (1988-02-14)
24"The Chain of Life"
"(Les chaînes de la vie)"
21 February 1988 (1988-02-21)
25"Repairs and Changes"
"(Réparations et transformations)"
28 February 1988 (1988-02-28)
26"And Life Goes On"
"(Et la vie va...)"
13 March 1988 (1988-03-13)

Regional home-video releases[edit]

In some English-language versions, the title is rendered as "Once Upon a Time – Life" in the opening credits.

A partwork version was produced for the United Kingdom in 50 hardback volumes, each with about 30 A4-sized pages, described as "an Orbis play & learn collection". In it, some of the characters have different names: The Professor for the Maestro; Captain Courageous and Ace for the lymphocyte B crafts' pilots; Plasmus and Globina for Hemo and Globin, Corpo for Jumbo; Toxicus, Germus and Infectius for the bacterium characters; Virulus for the virus character. VHS copies of the English-language television episodes were included with issues.

A DVD box set of all the episodes of the series was produced by Procidis, and distributed locally by various distributors.[4] The DVD series was produced in French, English, Polish, Finnish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Norwegian, Hungarian, Dutch and Swedish, but was not released in the United Kingdom. In 2011, the DVD box set was available in English in Canada, distributed by Imavision.

Biological accuracy[edit]

Most biological terminology is translated with care, but a few mistakes were made and there are some anachronisms. The heart chamber now known as the atrium is called the "auricle" in episode 7, a term correct at the time of production, but which is now used for another structure in the heart. "Pulmonary aorta" is used for "pulmonary artery", which is a mistake because unlike fish, humans do not have two aortae. More inaccuracies include complete lack of antigen presenting cell activity (by Macrophages, B-cells and Dendritic cells) in order to trigger the adaptive immune system according to MHCII complex. Though it is mentioned that Antibodies need to be specific to the disease's pathogen, the way that specificity is obtained is not shown. Also, some immunity system cells / mechanisms are not portrayed like Natural killer cell and the complement system.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Il était une fois... La Vie - Le Générique". YouTube.
  2. ^ "Final of Bergen 1986". European Broadcasting Union. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  3. ^ Brodesco, Alberto (2011). "I've Got you under my Skin: Narratives of the Inner Body in Cinema and Television". Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science. 26 (1): 214. doi:10.1163/182539111x569829. PMID 21936210. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2007-10-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]