Once Upon a Time... Man

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Once Upon a Time… Man
Once Upon a Time... Man.jpg
Created by Albert Barillé
Voices of Roger Carel
Annie Balestra
Patrick Préjean
Claude Bertrand
Yves Barsacq
Vincent Ropion
Narrated by Roger Carel
Composer(s) Yasuo Sugiyama
Country of origin France, Japan
No. of episodes 26
Running time 26 minutes
Production company(s) Procidis
Original network FR3
Picture format SECAM (576i)
Original release 1978
Followed by Once Upon a Time... Space (1982)
External links
Production website

Once Upon a Time... Man (French: Il était une fois... l'homme) is a French animated TV series from 1978 directed by Albert Barillé. It is the first in the Once Upon a Time... franchise. The series explains world history in a format designed for children. The action focuses around one group. The same familiar characters appear in all episodes as they deal with the problems of their time.

This animated was purchased by most public broadcasting channels in Europe (and in many other countries) and is well known by a significant percentage of the population. The program is known for explaining events to children from different viewpoints as main characters come from many civilizations. Despite its age, the number of factual errors is very low and most countries re-run the anime every few years.

The series' opening and ending title sequences famously used Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor as the main title theme music. Shortening the piece to only 2 minutes in length, the introduction uses the very beginning, which jumps into the start of the middle section and finally the dramatic ending to coincide with the destruction of Earth at the end of the intro.

Regional releases[edit]

A DVD box set of all the episodes of the series has been produced by the French production company Procidis, and distributed locally by various distributors. The DVD series was produced in French, English (not sold in UK or US), Finnish, German, Dutch, Hebrew, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. In 2011, an English language, Region 1 DVD box set is available in Canada and the United States. This set is produced and distributed by Imavision.


The episodes of Once Upon a Time… Man typically would follow one family, which most typically used the same set of archetypes that would be reused for the scenario. These same characters would later be used in the later additions to the Once Upon a Time... series, with some changes.

  • Maestro (Roger Carel) – The wise old man. He usually serves as the head of the tribe, as a religious priest, as an advisor to the king, or as an inventor. Maestro's hair is white and so long that it completely covers his body, and only his facial features, arms, and feet are ever visible; he is also distinguished by two hairs on the top of his head that look like antennae. Maestro often keeps objects in his beard and is sometimes seen fiddling around in it to find the one he wishes to present. He also serves as a mentor to the children of the series.
  • Peter / Pierre Carel (Roger Carel) – Another protagonist of the series, with brown hair, presented as an ordinary but likeable man. He is always married to Pierrette and is good friends with Jumbo. He is sometimes referred to as Pierrot. In some of the episodes set in the medieval era, Peter has blonde hair and is named Bert, but his personality and relationships are the same.
  • Jumbo / Le Gros (Yves Barsacq) – The strong young man with red curly hair, Jumbo is tall, somewhat clumsy, and very muscular. He prefers to solve problems with his fists, and his best friend Peter often needs to indicate for him not to attack.
  • Pierrette (Annie Balestra) – A kind blonde woman, typically married to Peter.
  • The Pest / Le Teigneux (Claude Bertrand) – A strong bully and one of two common recurring villains in the series (the other being the Dwarf). He is the major rival opposing Peter and Jumbo, and is either working against them or arguing with them.
  • The Dwarf / Le Nabot (Patrick Préjean) – The mastermind behind the Pest, the Dwarf is short and has red hair with three spikes pointing upward. He is often the only one who supports the Pest in his actions, and is often shown as a swindler.
  • The Clock – A rectangular box with eyes and hands, typically coloured red, the Clock most commonly simply shows the year that the events on-screen are occurring. Occasionally, the Clock does intervene in the series in a minor role, typically to either have some emotional response like surprise or sadness to an event on-screen, or else to correct Maestro in-series when he has ideas too advanced for his historical time period.

Although historical figures would typically appear as themselves, occasionally one of the archetypes would be used, like Maestro as Leonardo da Vinci.


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"And Earth was created…"23 March 1979 (1979-03-23)
On the evolution of life before Man to Stone Age.
2"Neanderthal Man"30 March 1979 (1979-03-30)
On the time of Paleolithic culture to Ice age.
3"Cro-Magnon Man"6 April 1979 (1979-04-06)
On the history of Cro-Magnon culture.
4"The Fertile Valleys"13 April 1979 (1979-04-13)
On the rise of agriculture, as well as ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Babylon and Israel.
5"The First Empires"20 April 1979 (1979-04-20)
On the empires of Babylon, Assyria, Persia and others from about BC 2000 to BC 323.
6"The Age of Pericles"27 April 1979 (1979-04-27)
On the Ancient Greece.
7"The Pax Romana"11 May 1979 (1979-05-11)
Actually on the time of Julius Caesar, before the Pax Romana commenced. In the last part of this episode, the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
8"The Conquest of Islam"18 May 1979 (1979-05-18)
On the Byzantine Empire, the reign of Justinian I, and the spread of Islam between 7th and 8th centuries.
9"Carolingians"25 May 1979 (1979-05-25)
On the Carolingian Empire.
10"The Age of Vikings"1 June 1978 (1978-06-01)
On the Vikings.
11"The Cathedral Builders"8 June 1978 (1978-06-08)
On the Middle Ages in the time of the Crusades.
12"The Travels of Marco Polo"15 June 1978 (1978-06-15)
On the history of Marco Polo.
13"The Hundred Years' War"22 June 1978 (1978-06-22)
On the end of the Hundred Years' War.
14"The Quattrocento"5 September 1981 (1981-09-05)
On the time of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
15"The Golden Age of Spain"12 September 1981 (1981-09-12)
On the history of Spanish Golden Age.
16"Elizabethan England"19 September 1981 (1981-09-19)
Mostly on the voyages of Sir Francis Drake.
17"The Golden Age of the Low Countries"26 September 1981 (1981-09-26)
On the history of Dutch Golden Age.
18"The Great Reign of Louis XIV"1 October 1981 (1981-10-01)
On the history of Louis XIV.
19"Peter the Great and his Times"8 October 1981 (1981-10-08)
On the history of Peter the Great.
20"The Age of Reason"16 October 1981 (1981-10-16)
On the history of Age of Enlightenment.
21"America"22 October 1981 (1981-10-22)
On the New World between 1492 and the American Civil War.
22"The French Revolution"29 October 1981 (1981-10-29)
On the history of French Revolution.
23"The Awakening of the People"5 November 1981 (1981-11-05)
On the mid-nineteenth century and the development of railroad.
24"The Belle Époque"12 November 1981 (1981-11-12)
On the latter decade of the nineteenth century, the development of automobile and the twentieth century up to World War One.
25"The Crazy Years"19 November 1981 (1981-11-19)
On the development of aviation, Roaring Twenties, Great Depression and World War Two.
26"Once Upon a Time… the Earth (and tomorrow?)"26 November 1981 (1981-11-26)
On the post-war world up to the series' production in 1978, with speculation on the future to 2150.

Broadcast information[edit]

The series Once Upon a Time… Man and its sequel series were dubbed into many languages.

Country Television broadcasts Title
Austria Austria ORF Es war einmal… der Mensch
Belgium Belgium RTBF ***, BRT *** RTBF: Il était une fois l' Homme
BRT Er was eens.. De Mens
Canada Canada CBC Television, Télévision de Radio-Canada ***, Access TV Alberta ***, TVOntario Once Upon a Time… Man
Il était une fois... l'Homme
Chile Chile TVN Érase una vez... el hombre
Czech Republic Czech Republic Československá televize (ČST), Česká televize (ČT) Byl jednou jeden člověk
Ecuador Ecuador Ecuavisa Érase una vez... el hombre
Finland Finland YLE Olipa kerran ihminen
France France FR3 *** Il était une fois... l'Homme
Greece Greece ERT Μια φορά και έναν καιρό ήταν... ο άνθρωπος
Hong Kong Hong Kong TVB 人做了甚麼
Hungary Hungary Magyar Televízió, Minimax (TV channel), Da Vinci Learning Egyszer volt... az ember
Iceland Iceland Sjónvarpið Einu sinni var...Saga Mannkyns
India India Doordarshan (DD)
Israel Israel Israeli Educational Television ** היה היה – האדם
Italy Italy RAI *** RAI: C'era una volta l'uomo Mediaset Conosciamoci un po'
Japan Japan Tatsunoko Production */***
South Korea South Korea Educational Broadcasting System 옛날 옛적에...
Mexico Mexico Canal 5 Érase una vez... el hombre
Netherlands Netherlands Katholieke Radio Omroep (KRO) *** Er was eens... De Mens
Norway Norway NRK *** Det var en gang et menneske
Peru Peru Panamericana Televisión (PANTEL) Érase una vez... el hombre
Poland Poland Telewizja Polska (TVP), TV Puls Był sobie człowiek
Portugal Portugal RTP ** Era uma vez... o homem
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland RTÉ
Slovakia Slovakia Československá televízia (ČST) Bol raz jeden... človek
South Africa South Africa South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC/SAUK) Eendag was daar..
Spain Spain Televisión Española (TVE) *** Érase una vez... el hombre
Sweden Sweden Sveriges Radio (SR) *** Det var en gång – tidernas äventyr
Switzerland Switzerland SSR *** (French) Es war einmal… der Mensch
Il était une fois... l'Homme
C'era una volta l'uomo
Turkey Turkey TRT (TRT) **, Kanal D Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş – İnsanoğlu
United Kingdom United Kingdom ITV Once Upon a Time... Man
United States United States of America PBS Once Upon a Time... Man
Venezuela Venezuela Televisora Nacional Canal 5 Érase una vez... el hombre
Germany West Germany SWF, WDR, ZDF Es war einmal… der Mensch

* Production company
** Originally broadcast in B/W; color not yet introduced in these countries
*** Contributing co-producer to the series

See also[edit]

External links[edit]