Princes and Princesses

French animator Michel Ocelot (Kikirou and the Sorceress) created this thoroughly beguiling and edifying compilation of shadow-puppet vignettes (1999) based on folktales from different cultures and linked by two illustrators, a boy and a girl, who imagine themselves as the leads and decide on the period style. Not coincidentally, all these fables feature a powerful woman-a princess, a sorceress-who bestows love or some other reward on the humble and resourceful hero. The backgrounds, patterned after black African, Egyptian, medieval, and futurist art, are uniformly ingenious, but two episodes are especially clever: in one of them, inspired by the scrolls of the Japanese artist Hokusai, an old lady outwits a thief and then gives him a splendid kimono as a parting gift, and in the other, a prince and a princess are transformed into a succession of creatures after each kiss, only to have their roles reversed at the end.

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