Princes et Princesses

Princes et Princesses

‘Princes et Princesses’ is an animated movie released in Japan under Studio Ghibli comprised of 6 fairytales, though the settings range from a French Rococo garden to ancient Egypt to even the year 3000…

Princes et princesses is a very small box of chocolates, you know, the kind with the different sweet fruit fillings that’s just big enough to share with a friend. Not literally; I would strongly discourage anyone from trying to eat a copy of the film. (I’m sure the writer, animator and director, Michel Ocelot, would feel the same way.) Just watching this movie is enough – you’ll still have a sweet feeling in your tummy when the credits roll.

The movie is actually a compilation of six films, each about ten minutes long, that originally aired in 1989 as the series Ciné si. All are fairytales, though the settings range from a French Rococo garden to ancient Egypt to even the year 3000. However, continuity is achieved as the first scene of each of the stories follows the same pattern: a young man and woman, along with an older man, are discussing what that night’s story will be. After deciding on a theme, the young man and woman are outfitted in costumes by a whimsical machine and begin to perform the story.

The multi-layered stories and brilliant voice acting (which, by the way, is all in French – viva subtitles!) are given even more of an impact through the silhouette animation. The characters and scenery are all black cut-outs, but the amount of detail used is astonishing. The backgrounds are usually simple washes of color that remind me of illustrations from children’s books. What really grabbed me about this film, however, was the musical score. Like everything else about Princes et Princesses, it is simple, yet beautiful. A single melody, sometimes sung, sometimes whistled, is the only music. The piece is only a few moments long, but it stayed with me for the rest of the day.

If it seems like I can’t stop praising this film, well, I guess that’s okay because other people, far more cultured than I, have lavished quite a bit of love on it, too. The fourth story won the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the sixth won the Ottawa International Animation Festival. The film as a whole was released in Japan under Studio Ghibli (which has been responsible for such classics as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro), won both the adult and children’s jury awards at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, the award for best compilation film at the Annecy festival and the award for the best children’s series at the Ottawa festival.

Despite the film’s many honors, from what I can tell, finding a copy in the English-speaking world might take a little effort. I was lucky enough to stumble across a copy of the film in the dark, lonely corners of the library, but unfortunately for those across the pond, there are currently (as of March 2008) no plans to release Princes et Princesses in the United Kingdom or Australia, though it is out in France, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Still, purchasing this film is probably a worthy investment; like chocolates, once you taste how sweet this is, you’ll want to share it with everyone.

Princes et Princess