Sunday, July 20, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest

This CGI-animated movie was done as a Belgian/French/Italian/Spanish production created by Michael Ocelot, a longtime animator whose work includes Tales Of The Night, and Kirikou And The Wild Beasts. Similar to the classic animated film, The Adventures Of Prince Achmed from the 1920s, this was an Arabian Nights-styled fantasy adventure story done in the point-of-view with the characters usually being seen from one side. It was done with lavish 2-D backgrounds and 3-D characters to create an enchanting effect like you're looking at a moving watercolor painting.

Set sometime probably in the 15th or 16th Century, a European nobleman's son named Azur was raised by Jeane, a Middle Eastern nanny whose son Asmar was the same age as Azur, and Jeane raised them both as her own. She would often tell them stories about the Djinn-Fairy locked away in a mountain waiting for a prince to rescue her. Until Azur reached a certain age, his jerk-ass father sent him off to boarding school and kicked Jeane out along with her son. Years past, and Azur decides to instead of living up to his father's expectations to travel across the sea to see the tales of the Djinn-Fairy are true and free her himself. He gets knocked overboard and ends up in the correct land, but the locals are superstitious about someone with blue eyes, so Azur pretends to be blind. He teams up with a beggar, who leads him to Jeane's house, and she is now a rich merchant. Asmar is also planning on seeking out the Djinn-Fairy the following day too, so Azul goes to the nearby clever but young Princess Chasmous who helps him with some magical items for his quest. Both Azul and Asmar go their own separate ways on their journey, but they are ambushed by bandits, so the two of them eventually have to team up to complete their quest. In the end, both of them enter the Djinn-Fariy's inner-sanctum together, which makes both of them eligible to marry her. After using her magic to summon nearly the entire remaining cast to see how to solve the conundrum of which one she should marry, the Djinn-Fairy calls forth her cousin the Elf-Fairy to help decide(although one wonders why her cousin wouldn't help to free her on her own in the first place). However, the Elf-Fairy falls for Asmar while Azul becomes the winner of the Djinn-Fairy, making for a very happy ending.

I'll admit I was very impressed with the film's approach to telling a story. The mixture of English and Middle Eastern dialogue give it an outstanding international flavor. The animation is revolutionary and mixes in modern computer animated with traditional theatrics. It appeals to all ages, and is really worth seeking out.

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