Michel Ocelot: Raconteur of animation

By Zhang Xingjian(chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2017-03-29 16:07:11

Michel Ocelot [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

While 3D animations sometimes become box office blockbusters, "3D animation is not my cup of tea as it has killed the curiosity and imagination among many producers," said renowned French filmmaker Michel Ocelot during an exclusive interview with China Daily Website.

On the occasion of celebrating the 22nd Francophonie Festival in China, the 74-year-old French animation director shared his interesting stories with Chinese fans from March 25 to 27.

'3D animation is not my future'

Born in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, Michel Ocelot has experienced a multicultural environment since his childhood.

"I have spent my school time in Africa but holiday time in France when I was a primary student. Living in two diverse continents is just like walking in two different yet parallel universes, an invaluable experience that enriches my vision and propels me to strike a balance of harmony in the producing process," Ocelot said.

"My animations usually center on two themes. The first is that dreams as qualified animations should offer hope and inspiration for those who chase their dreams. The second is about the differences between people. Here, differences do not mean distinctions in gender, social position or race but diversity in personal character. It is the individual charisma that constitutes modern society," the director added.

From the blockbuster Frozen to the Oscar-winner Zootopia, the power of 3D magic has engulfed the animation industry in recent years. Some people even hold that 3D technology is the future of the animation industry. But the director thinks otherwise.

"I have tried to integrate the 3D technology into my works before, but all ended in mediocrity. Many animation producers have paid more attention to the visual effects but ignored the implied meaning behind the animations," Ocelot said.

"An eligible animation should reflect issues that need to be addressed in our lives through a humorous manner and people should learn something after watching it. Therefore, I will stick to traditional 2D production in the future," he said.

A poster advertises the animation Dilili in Paris [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Promoting gender equality in new works

After two years' waiting, his latest animation, Dilili in Paris, is set to hit the big screen in 2018. When introducing the highlights, the director had something to say about gender issues.

In Dilili in Paris, the director has set two story lines on the part of the people and the city of Paris. In portraying Paris, Ocelot tries to express the city positively through exquisite French architectural style, charming women, convenient traffic and modern lifestyles. In discussing human relationships, the director aims to reveal human weakness through little stories in life.

"As a matter of fact, women have played a significant role in our lives, a universal truth that never changes in the world. However, they have encountered many difficulties in work, social life and even in the family. Therefore, I have to address and square up to these problems in upcoming works," Ocelot said.

People who are familiar with Michel Ocelot's style know that his work, more often than not, draws unique cultural elements from a certain country, such as the shadow play in the Tales of the Night and tribe culture in the Kirikou series.

"I am not the kind of person who just does Chinese-style animation to appeal to Chinese or Japanese-style cartoons to the Japanese. Instead, animation should be accessible to people of different backgrounds, races and countries," Ocelot said.

And this time he has chosen Paris for the new animation.

He did so because, first of all, he has been living in Paris for several decades and has a strong bond with the city. It is time that he made an animation in this place. Secondly, people often use the word "romantic" to describe the metropolis. But the charm of Paris is more than that: Paris can be energetic, still, passionate and calm. Also, he hopes that viewers can see a different Paris after watching it.

A poster advertises the animation Kirikou and the Sorceress [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Uncertainty about the continuity of the Kirikou series

When talking about Michel Ocelot, one must mention the little African boy, Kirikou, from the animation series of the same name.

In the trilogy, small as he is, Kirikou is smart and helps villagers overcome curses by some witches and is brave enough to fight against monsters and philanthropic enough to safeguard his homeland.

Thanks to the huge success of the animations both in reputation and commerce, Michel Ocelot has risen to fame in the world. Accordingly, the little boy Kirikou has become a well-known character in France.

Michel Ocelot has also received many awards, including the best animated feature at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 1999 and the best European feature at the British Animation Awards 2002.

The trilogy Kirikou and the Sorceress, Kirikou and the Wild Beasts and Kirikou and the Men and Women were released in 1998, 2005 and 2012 respectively, each seven years apart. On the basis of the rule, many animation fans expect the fourth will be unveiled in 2019.

When asked about this, Ocelot said he is still unsure about the continuity of the series.

"At first, I have said 'no' officially on many occasions because classic works always end at the proper time. But as many people have expected another one, I am considering doing it in the future, but not saying yes. Haha, time will tell the result," Ocelot said, smiling.

A poster advertises the animation Kirikou and the Wild Beasts [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

A poster advertises the animation Kirikou and the Men and Women [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Chinese-style shadow play is used in the Tales of the Night. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Chinese-style shadow play is used in the Tales of the Night. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Chinese-style shadow play is used in the Tales of the Night. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Chinese-style shadow play is used in the Tales of the Night. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Michel Ocelot in Beijing on March 27,2017 [Photo by Zhang Xingjian/chinadaily.com.cn]

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