Friday, December 26, 2008

Azur and Asmar (Rhoades)

‘Azur & Asmar’ Is Disney Fairytale Without Disney

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Movies have come a long way since 1944’s “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” – as has society.
Baghdad is no longer a mystical city filled with flying carpets and genies hiding in bottles, but instead it’s a tragic war zone.

Disney resurrected the flying carpet theme in 1992’s “Aladdin,” adding the magic touch of animation and Robin Williams as the voice of the big blue Genie.

Now we have “Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest” – a French animation film that draws on “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” as well as other folktales – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

At last, a kid’s movie for Christmas! And adults will marvel at the swirling colors and delightful animation too.

The visual style of “Azur & Asmar” was influenced by Persian miniatures, 16th Century Safavid art, French art, and early 15th Century Netherlandish paintings.
This delightful fantasy was written and directed by Michel Ocelot, who has given us such fairytale features as “The Impassive Princess,” “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” “The Legend of the Poor Hunchback,” and “Princes and Princesses.”

This Gallic filmmaker is beating Disney at its own game – animated movies about princes and princesses.

When my friend Jackie worked for Disney Publishing, she phoned me from Walt Disney’s apartment on Main Street in Disneyland. She said they had been meeting to figure out what was the next princess story that Disney would tackle.

As you know, Disney seemed to be cornering the market with such stories, ranging from “Pocahontas” to “Mulan,” “Beauty and the Beast” to “The Little Mermaid,” and yes … “The Princess Diaries.” And scheduled for release next year is Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.”
On the other hand, “Azur & Asmar” stands on its own as an enchanted fairytale designed to please audiences both as an entertaining story and as a “parable on tolerance between races, creeds and classes.”

Once upon a time (as fairytales go) there were two young boys being cared for by the same nurse. Azur is the fair-haired son of a nobleman, while Asmar is the dark-haired child of the nurse. They are as close as brothers.

The nurse tells them a tale about a fairy Djinn (that is, a genie) waiting to be rescued by a heroic prince. Ah, both boys dreams of being that prince.

Later separated when Azur is sent away to school, their paths cross again when Azur returns in search of the Djinn-fairy. But his young friend Asmar, now a Royal guard, has the same ambition.

Alas, there can be but one who is successful in this quest.

You won’t recognize any of the voices featured in this French production – no big names like Robin Williams or Mel Gibson or Anne Hathaway. But you’ll be so drawn into this dazzling adventure that Azur and Asmar won’t need famous voices behind them.

So this Christmas you have a choice: This French-made animated fairytale at the Tropic or Disney’s real-people “Bedtime Stories” starring Adam Sandler at the Regal.

Who would’ve thought! This season “Azur & Asmar” is more Disneyesque than Disney.
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: