“The King and the Mockingbird” is a great reminder of how hand drawn animation on film will always warm the hearts of children and adults. More than just an adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story, “The King and the Mockingbird” is a mighty fine, moving work of art. The story is spun out of the Andersen fairy tale, The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, and is about Charles V plus III equals VIII plus VIII equals XVI and how he tyrannically tries to marry the Shepherdess while being foiled by a brightly feathered Mockingbird. The King rules over the fantastical and oppressed kingdom of Tachycardia, a land consisting of dizzying levels of social class. After a commissioned painting of him comes to life while he sleeps, the audience is treated to a wonderful series of scenes in which the art in his room, various paintings and a decrepit statue come to life. Contained within two paintings in the King’s room is that of a beautiful and modest shepherdess and a brave little chimney sweep. They are secretly in love and one night escape from their paintings and climb to the top of the egomaniacal king’s highest tower. It is there they meet the Mockingbird who befriends them after the Chimney Sweep saves one of the little birds. Charles V plus III awakens to find his room disturbed and calls for the socialistic group of mustachioed policemen. Unbeknownst to the bumbling policemen, they arrive too late as the commissioned painting of the King has dispatched the real King. Taking his place while no one is the wiser, he orders his armed forces to find the Shepherdess and Chimney Sweep to be brought to him. With the aid of various gadgets such as an electronic bumper car like throne, futuristic flying devices, and a giant robot, the King eventually captures the boy and girl. But all is not lost for our heroes! The Chimney Sweep is saved from a certain death by his blind musician friend and the Mockingbird, along with a den of lions the underdwellers of the lowest social class mistake for birds, they take back their kingdom.
Paul Grimault, the animator responsible for influencing Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, began developing with his friend and noted poet, Jacques Prevert in 1946. The idea for the film, which was intended to be France’s first animated feature , was halted due to a dispute over the initial cut. After spending 10 years of getting the rights back and another 20 raising the money to finish the film, “The King and the Mockingbird” can now be fully appreciated by U.S. audiences. It’s influence on Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant” and Coldplay’s video for “Talk” is immediately felt and understandable as to why it has been so influential. Unlike many of the other animators who have directly been inspired by Grimault, there is a real sense of joy found on each frame. The overall product is a result of those celebrating their very work as one of the great accomplishments in moving art. The score, adding needed moments of whimsy and a flair for the dramatic, create a film that’s fun for the whole family.
“The King and the Mockingbird”, with scenes of wild political commentary. never comes across as pretentious and is only more interesting to watch if you have knowledge of the film’s storied production. “The King and the Mockingbird” starts its theatrical run on Friday, November 21, when it will open at Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, followed by a Los Angeles (Laemmle Theatres, December 19) and a national rollout.
“The King and the Mockingbird” gets five out of five stars!