Le Roman de Renard

Director Wladyslaw Starewicz / 1931 / France

Completed in 1931 Starewicz's masterly puppet animation was arguably the worlds first animated feature, preceding Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs by some seven years. Whilst often referred to by film historians, The Tale Of The Fox, like a great many animated films, was thought lost and only known by reputation and a few stills until archivists rediscovered an old print in the early 80s. Finally it is now completely restored, including a new orchestral backing to the original Vincent Scotto score.

This adaptation of an old German folk story, as told by Goethe, becomes in Starewicz's hands a wonderfully inventive, often hilarious mock medieval epic. It tells the story of a wily fox who manages to outwit the court of King Lion and the rest of the animal kingdom. He is finally made Prime Minister, on the theory that if you can't beat them, have them join you. In the finest tradition of political aspirants, Fox uses every dirty trick in the book to attain his position. He's a name caller, a tail puller, a fiend; very much a 90s hero, one shudders to think how the film was received in the early thirties.
Unprecedented in the history of animation in its scope and achievements, The Tale Of The Fox took some ten years to prepare, 18 months to shoot and features a cast that seems to comprise the entire animal kingdom. Through all this, Starewicz is said to have worked with only the casual assistance of his daughter Irene and a few other animation assistants.

An undoubted influence on the whole wave of East European animators of the 60's and 70's (Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Barta etc), and one that can be seen still in the work of The Brothers Quay, bolexbrothers and even Tim Burton, Wladyslaw Starewicz's time has, belatedly, come.

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