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As you may have noticed, a good chunk of the animation reviews I have written are from the distributor, GKIDS. Well, that’s because more people should know about this company. For many years, they have made sure to show off and help bring over the highest quality of animated films from all over the world. A lot of these films are quite fantastic, and are as good, or even better than the films that Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks release. (Well, depending on the year they are released they are.) If you read my reviews, you should be familiar with some of the films I have covered already, like Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, and The Rabbi’s Cat. That is why I’m going to cover GKIDS’ first official animated film release. Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest was originally released back in 2006 and was finally brought over to the states in 2008 with help from The Weinstein Company. The movie was directed by famous French director, Michel Ocelot, who film junkies should recognize for his other animated films like Tales of the Night, and Kirikou and the Sorceress. Ocelot definitely has a distinct style with a lot of the characters moving like those 2D wooden puppets. While I do think this film is good, I have some complaints about it. For now though, let’s get started with the review of Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest.
The story of Azur and Asmar is an original fairy tale, of course taking some inspirations from 1001 Arabian Tales and what not. The story revolves around two boys named Azur and Asmar. Azur is a blue-eyed blond-haired son of a nobleman, and Asmar is the child of the nurse who takes care of the two boys. While growing up, the nurse that takes care of both of them tells them the story of the Djinn Fairy that is captured inside a mountain. After Azur gets separated from Asmar, Asmar and his mother are banished from the country, while Azur takes multiple studies in the city. After many years, Azur grows up to be a young man and decides to travel across the sea to the country where the Djinn Fairy is being held. Along the way to this country, Azur meets a hermit-like character named Crapoux, who once, many years ago, tried to search for the fairy and failed. Azur eventually meets up with the nurse and Asmar, both of whom have grown older. Together, Azur and Asmar journey across the land hoping to find the Djinn Fairy.
Before we get to the criticisms, how about we talk about the beautiful scenery and colors used in the movie? If this film succeeds in anything, it’s to be one of the most visually striking animated films of all time. So many bright and gorgeous colors are used. You could pause at any point within the movie and make individually framed portraits of the film, it’s that good looking! I also adore the amount of cultural references that are in this movie. For example, when Azur arrives in country that he was going to, a lot of the natives treat him like he is the devil and all because he has blue eyes. I found that to be an odd thing to be afraid of, but I then looked it up, and this is a real cultural thing in some countries. Another example is when Azur is in the market area, and two vendors argue with each other. One spoke French, and the other spoke Arabic. It was rather interesting to see two different languages from the vendors interact with one another. I also like some of the characters. The mother is a rather strong female character who, once she reunites with Azur, is a no-nonsense woman, but she still cares for both her natural son and Azur. Azur and Asmar also have distinct, if not super varied personalities. Azur is the more naïve, but well-educated of the two, and Asmar is the more aggressive individual. Then again, I wouldn’t blame Asmar for being upset at Azur, since Azur’s dad tossed him and his mother out. I also like some of the creativity with how there are two different ways of finding the Djinn Fairy, and that there are some actual risks to get to where they need to be. Granted, the ending kind of messes this all up, but I will talk about that later.
So, where does this film fall flat? Well, despite having some of the best visual flair I have ever seen in an animated film, the actual animation of the CGI models is rather mediocre. They move awkwardly and unnaturally. This isn’t like Tales of the Night, where the clunky animation was meant to look like that since they were mimicking puppets. I also think the lush art style makes the character models look worse, since they visually look cheaply made. I know I harp on Europe for having such bad CGI animation, but it can’t be said enough, since they are either using weaker technology than the rest of the world for the CGI or it’s a rather odd-looking design choice. It’s funny since there are some scenes where the animation looks fluid, but they’re so few and far between. I also found the ending to be cute, but underwhelming. It seems to wrap up way too nicely when there was a lot at stake for either of the two princes to make it to their final destination, and yet, it feels like it didn’t matter in the end. Everybody gets a happy ending!
Despite some of the animation flaws and the overly-happy happy ending, I do like this movie. I can’t say it’s my favorite release from GKIDS so far, but it’s definitely more interesting than what comes out most of the time in theaters. If you can find this film for cheap, I would definitely get it. I would also recommend you skip through the trailers for the other movies since they all look really and I mean really bad. If you are up for some downright amazing visuals, then Azur and Asmar has you covered! You know, I love talking about GKIDS. How about we talk about another film from them? I was thinking next time we talk about A Cat in Paris. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!
Rating: Go See It!