Michel Ocelot, the wonderful storyteller for children
and adults alike, reveals a few secrets… . . .
Delphine Dalquié : What fascinates you?
Michel Ocelot: Beauty in all its different forms.
DD : Your films are often programmed over the Christmas holidays. What does this time of the year represent for you?
MO: I had a great childhood and enjoyed a state of nirvana with the Christmas celebrations of those years. Everything was there: the love of my family, the Christmas tree, the nativity scene, things that sparkle, things that smell good, mystery, beautifully wrapped presents, candles, chocolate candy and Christmas carols.
DD : What are your sources of visual and literary inspiration? Books, childhood memories, folk tales?
MO: I own many illustrated books and look at them very often. I have a book stand in my living room and another one in my bedroom, with open picture books that change and of which I turn the pages. I am interested in many things but most of all by things that are very well drawn. My movies are inspired either by simple traditional tales or from my own experiences and desires. I never adapt a written and accomplished work.
DD : What is your dream project?
MO: I have a few dream projects and I make them come true one by one. My next project is to tell pretty tales in shadow theatre once again. Another is a baroque opera in black and white drawings in the style of Aubrey Beardsley. Another is a story of sex, silk and blood situated at the court of the Valois, with an abundance of colours and lavishness. I have another which is an austere film with still images, taking place in the Middle-Ages. Another dream is to do a feature film located in Paris, a city that I love very much.
Today I am in the lucky position to be able to make all my authors dreams come true.
DD : Tell us about authors or artists whom you admire.
MO: I find it a little difficult to answer this question. There are many things that I love, too many to list them all, but I don’t have idols and I tend to like such or such specific work, rather than the entire body of work of an author. I also admire things that a wide audience will find hard to relate to because they come from animation or short films and are not well known. A few examples? Voltaire’s letters, Youri Norstein’s “The Heron and the Crane”, “Crac” by Frédéric Back, “Father and Daughter” by Michael Dudok de Witt (these last three are short animation films), the first part of Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion”, the Eiffel Tower when it sparkles at night, Buster Keaton’s “Neighbors”, the Carl Milles garden in Stockholm, Persian miniatures, free drawings by Moebius, illustrations by Kay Nielsen (a Danish graphic artist from the early 20th century)…
DD : In your eyes, what is the most beautiful form of artistic expression?
MO : Animation cinema! This form of expression fulfils all my desires, my wishes of theatre, costumes, voices, music, dance, stories, emotions, journeys and pleasures.
DD : Your films often tell about travels, foreign places and cultures; do you enjoy travelling and living abroad?
MO: I do enjoy travelling; I find it necessary to rub shoulders with others, to refrain from having a blinkered attitude, and to be a citizen of the world. But I must say I am happy with life in Paris and I couldn’t wish for a better place to live.
DD :” Kirikou and the sorceress” was adapted into a musical; tell us what you enjoyed, or didn’t like, and what surprised you in this passage from animation to real life.
MO: I really appreciated being able to show in real life the beauty I had tried to celebrate in drawings. I also got along very well with the cast. The magic of theatre gave me a wonderful surprise: the character of Kirikou must be tiny and naked, otherwise it’s just not Kirikou. But it was absolutely impossible to have a tiny naked child on stage every night at the Casino de Paris. I had thought about a puppet, handled by one or more puppeteers who wouldn’t be hiding. But I wasn’t totally sure about this idea; would the audience be ready to accept this concept? Could the audience be thrilled by four pieces of wood on a string, moving about on stage? And yes, the audience was ready, in fact the audience was fascinated, and so was I.
DD : You are “the father of Kirikou”, have you ever imagined Kirikou's life as an adult?
MO: No, the story I wanted to tell was that of a little child facing a beautiful woman who everybody considered to be a sorceress. I don’t intend to carry on the story of the characters as an adult couple.
Michel Ocelot, Michel Ocelot, Paul McKee & Björk, Nord-Ouest, Gebeka and Les Amateurs.
Azur et Asmar
Princes et Princesses © 2000 Les Armateurs/Studio O/La Fabrique/Gebeka Films
Björk music video Earth Intruders
Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages © 2005 Les Armateurs/ Gebeka Films / France 3 Cinéma / Studio O
The DVD box sets Intégrale Kirikou and Hidden treasures by Michel Ocelot are available in shops.