Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest - interview with Michel Ocelot

  • The List
  • 31 January 2008
Michel Ocelot

Name Michel Ocelot

Born Villefranche-sur-Mer, France in 1943

Background While Ocelot spent much of his childhood in Guinea, West Africa and his teenager years in Anjou, he now lives in Paris. He made his name by writing and directing the Kirikou animated films. He faced early controversy for showing a naked body in a non-sexual way in the first of the Kirikou cycle: Kirikou and the Sorceress and was called on to justify whether images of the naked body are suitable for the young. In 2007 he directed the music video Earth Intruders for Björk from the Volta album. He has also worked as a production designer, actor, editor and cinematographer.

What’s he up to now? He has made his first film using 3D animation techniques Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest, which, despite being a simple children’s film he feels is a response to the current War on Terror: ‘I was thinking about the current political situation in the world even though the story takes place a few centuries ago. People think that this idea for the film was conceived after 9/11 but no, the genesis of the film started before that. We saw the Twin Towers coming down on television while we were drawing the opening scene and we had the feeling that this has to be made.’

What he says about the influence of France on his work ‘As I’m from France I wanted to do a film about France, and as most of the immigrants in France are from North Africa, some of the film takes place in North Africa.’

Interesting fact Normally Ocelot finds 3D animation ‘boring’. As a result he wanted to get away from computer generated 3D and so made the backgrounds 2D and the characters 3D to create a more cartoon look and didn’t put in any lights and shadows to avoid the temptation to mimic reality. (Kaleem Aftab)

Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest, Filmhouse, Edinburgh & selected release from Fri 8 Feb.

Azur and Asmar: The Princes' Quest

  • 4 stars
  • 2006
  • Spain / Italy / Belgium / France
  • 1h 39min
  • U
  • Directed by: Michel Ocelot
  • Written by: Michel Ocelot
  • Cast: Cyril Mourali, Karim M'Riba, Hiam Abbass, Patrick Timsit

Childhood buddies Azur and Asmar become rivals and enemies in a medieval Maghreb. With the action taking place in North African Islamic architecture and over-populated bazaars, the colourful palatte of the animation and 'Arabian Nights'-style storyline is a welcome throwback to the days before Pixar tore up the rulebook.