The classic 1952 French animated feature film, The King And The Mockingbird, has been meticulously restored by Studiocanal and will be theatrically re-released this year through Rialto Pictures. It will open in New York on Friday, November 21st, Los Angeles (December 19th at Laemmle Theatres) and major cities to follow.
The restored feature, directed by Paul Grimault and written by Grimault and legendary poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert, will premiere as a Special Event at the 52nd New York Film Festival in October.
Based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, the satirical The King And The Mockingbird follows a chimney sweep and shepherdess on the run from a tyrannical king. A masterpiece of traditional hand-drawn cell animation,The King And The Mockingbird is credited by celebrated Japanese animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata as inspiring the creation of their own studio, the now world-famous Studio Ghibli. Its influence can also be felt in such films as Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant.
Grimault and Prévert (Children of Paradise, Port of Shadows, Le Jour se Lève) started work onThe King And The Mockingbird in 1947, when it was planned to be France’s first animated feature. A dispute stopped production, however, and it was released unfinished by its producer, without Grimault and Prévert’s permission.
This unfinished version was first released in the U.S. as The Adventures Of Mr. Wonderbird, with narration by Peter Ustinov, by Fine Arts Pictures in 1957. The film received numerous title changes, edits and releases throughout the decades – under such titles as Wonderbird, Mr. Wonderbird, The Curious Mr. Wonderbird, The King And Mr. Bird, and even its original title La Bergere et Le Ramoneur.
Grimault spent 10 years getting the rights back and another 20 raising the money to finish the film as he and Prévert had envisaged it. It was finally finished and released in 1979, a few weeks after Prévert’s death. Though it has been a favorite of French audiences for 35 years, it has long been unavailable in the U.S. due to rights issues. It’s a great film – and I highly recommend it.
Here’s our first look at the restoration via its new trailer: