JEDDAH: On the sidelines of the Red Sea International Film Festival festivities, the French animation veteran Michel Ocelot sat down with his audience during one of the festival’s “In Conversation” sessions at Red Sea Mall in Jeddah on Dec. 6.
Ocelot, 79, is a writer, designer, storyboard artist, and director of an array of legendary animated feature films and mostly he is recognized for his “Kirikou et la sorcière” released in 1998 which translates to "Kirikou and the witch" and also his amazing animation "Azur and Asmar: The Princes' Quest" released in 2006.
“Kirikou et la sorcière” resampled the rebirth era of French animation in the cinema and it was a striking start for Ocelot’s artistic career who is strongly passionate about what he produced. “I know what I want, I’m doing it and I love it,” he said.
The animation art and drawings of Kirikou et la sorcière were fully handmade and the film was the boom for his animation career, Ocelot said that before this film come to life, he was just an artist.
“The life of a movie artist who doesn't exist much was very hard. But all of a sudden, I have an international success.”
He continued: “They are handmade and handmade, with not much money, it's part of that you can see somebody did them, not a company, not board of director, and literally like this, I discovered this parallel life of animation, little things are done in one's kitchen, but they exist.”
Ocelot is a role model for experts and emerging animation artists as the brilliance in his work will always remain a great inspiration for many generations, as his work is always nurtured by a visual atmosphere. “Kids who were kids at the time now adults, and come to me and thank me. And sometimes they cry. So, I'm lucky.”
Despite his true success, Ocelot has been through hard times, and that is what made him an outstanding expert in the field.
“It was hard to find my way because when I started animation didn't really exist, people wouldn’t know about this name. They were no real schools to learn from, and I had to go to a lab to emulate the process, where you have to have a camera, light, an editing table, and all that was expensive and out of my reach. So, I lost quite some time I learned by myself. But as I didn't go to any school, I'm still completely innocent and don't know how I'm feeling so amazing. I just made them.”
“I think I started at the year of one or two, I took a pencil and I drew and I never stopped. And then I was a happy child and I was always active. And I think I prepared myself for my job from my infancy. And I would draw in paint and cut and get into a disguise and decorate the house for the festivals and make a little gift with a nice package. And that's, my vision today”
He had a very interesting childhood as he has been raised in Africa, Kenya where his vibrant animation is inspired by its “Beautiful and benevolent people.”
“I remember the beauty of the people and the dresses of women on festival days, it was definitely intelligent. True elegance, happy elegance, and the details within which made my infancy in the world of animation special.”
Ocelot's extravagant animation made him a former president of the International Animated Film Association, as he had been moving between two countries with huge cultural and historic differences shaping his artistic style as his animation reflects a lot about great Africa from his personal perspective.
“I was at ease in those universities. So, I was never expatriates that didn't exist in my vocabulary. So that's always been a great part of my life. Being aware of different worlds and being at ease with them and being at ease with such different parts of the world. I can put myself in the place of other people easily and I know the relatability of things.”
Ocelot shared some of his career fundamentals when it comes to following an animation production career including commitment, sticking to original ideas is key, and leaving fear behind is a must.
“Give everything you have. Try not to listen to bad advice. Sometimes you get good advice, but it's better not to follow them. Don't be afraid to start.”
His new animation feature film that has been released earlier this year. “The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess” was screened for the audience after the conversation.