Tripping along on its own whimsy this playful, if slight, collection of six fairy tales from veteran French animator Michel Ocelot has charm in spades. He uses traditional silhouette animation, drawing his characters in elegant black shapes against exquisite, stunningly ornate backgrounds. As for the stories, which have been dubbed into English, they have the adventure and back-to-front logic of a child’s dream: boys turn into wolves, horses talk, a giant spider snatches a princess up into its web. And they all finish with a moral at the end, as every good fairy tale should.
Some of the stories – which have an international flavour, travelling to Aztec Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa – work better than others. The opener, ‘The Werewolf’, is a delight. It tells of a young man engaged to a princess, believing she secretly kept him alive when he was wrongfully imprisoned; in fact, it was her sister. When he confesses to his betrothed that he’s a werewolf, she tricks him, trapping him forever in his wolf state until her sister comes to the rescue.
These tales, narrated by a young boy and girl in an abandoned cinema, are about the pleasure of storytelling as much as anything else. Ocelot has said that he doesn’t make films for children: ‘That’s why children like my films.’ He has a point. Some of the stories are deliciously grown-up: one features dead grannies feasting on old bones. And while some of them do drag, older kids could well fall for these magical, timeless tales.