A chimney sweep and a shepherdess seek to escape from the clutches of a tyrannical king.
“The King and the Mockingbird” is a 1980 French animated feature that was produced in the tradition of early Walt Disney movies such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Bambi.” Its animated design is the only similar characteristic to Disney’s technique and while the story, in the beginning anyway, opens in typical Disney fashion, as it progresses, it becomes less about story and gradually develops into an embodiment of visual style over substance. As is the case with any movie, animated or live-action, the story is what attracts us and when it apparently becomes less and less relevant, we find ourselves becoming less and less involved.
We are never given a timeline or location, the story just begins in the kingdom of Takicardia where it is ruled by a heartless and brutal king named Charles V + III = VIII + VIII = XVI. He hates absolutely everything and everyone and his people hate him back just as much. At the very top of his castle, he has hidden chambers where he likes to be by himself and adorned on the wall, is a portrait of a young and beautiful shepherdess who Charles is totally in love with but she is in love with a simple chimney sweep whose portrait hangs on the opposite wall. One night, the paintings come to life and both the shepherdess and chimney sweep climb down from their frames and explore the real world.
Along the way, they meet L’oiseau, a mockingbird who is the equivalent of a winged Gandalf, wise and well-informed, who knows all and sees all. When they help save one of L’oiseau’s babies, he resolves to help them any way he can and when King Charles sets the entire kingdom in search of them as he wants to marry the shepherdess and keep her for himself, the mockingbird enlists the cooperation and help of all the animals in the kingdom, including the Lower City, where the inhabitants have never seen the light of day, so that the two can live happily ever after. In the process, they overthrow the wicked king and his monarchy, setting free not just our lovelorn duo but every other enslaved subject in the kingdom.
There has never been a completed version of the movie in the U.S. but thanks to Rialto Pictures, it is getting a limited theatrical release in California, New York and Michigan and I’m sure a DVD release will not be too far behind. Visually, there is much to like about “The King and the Mockingbird” and although it is technically a family movie, I can promise you in today’s over-crowded animated environment, with powerhouses like Disney and Pixar competing for your hard-earned buck utilizing their million-dollar marketing budgets, “The King and the Mockingbird”, along with its simplistic, old-fashioned animation and English subtitles, sadly, is very unlikely to make any impact on these shores. For die-hard fans and collectors only.
In select theaters November 21st
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