The King and the Mockingbird is a 1980 French animated film directed by Paul Grimault and it is one of the most famous and most highly regarded among all of French animation and that is for good reasons.
It is about a self-centered king who wants to be with shepherdess, but she is in love with the chimney sweep. They get on the run and he pursues them in a series of tunnels and passages in his castle. The film is very smart and satiric in its portrayal of king and his ruling. And the plot flows smoothly, is very engaging and quite entertaining and very well realized. The second act is the best here because it benefits from strong animation and terrific imagination propelled by extraordinary world-building thanks to a beautifully conceived castle with all of its rooms and passages. And the action sequences are nicely executed and quite entertaining. However, while the first act is solid if nowhere near the quality of the second, I found the third act to be quite flawed with definitely too much action and a bit rushed ending.
Apart from too much action, the problems present in the film are twofold. First, the emotional investment is non-existent and second, the character development should have been way better. The character of the king is wonderfully realized, but all of the other characters are quite bland and flat which definitely hurts the movie. I also think it is weird that most of the time they do not talk, but sometimes they do which is strange. They should have either gone with the whole talking or whole silent mode. But the character that does talk is the mockingbird and he is, like the king, well developed. But his character really got on my nerves because he was so annoying with an obnoxious smile and behavior.
As for the animation, it is in my opinion one of the highlights of the movie. People think that it is dated, but I do not agree. I think of this film as ‘The Iron Giant’ in a way that the use of old-fashioned animation from earlier times is warranted. In the case of the aforementioned film, it is a conscious choice to fit with the movie’s theme and story’s timeline whereas in the case of The King and the Mockingbird, it is because they filmed it for three decades. But I do not forgive them only because of that troubled production, but I honestly find the animation superb here. The colors are vivid, the style is beautiful and it created a whole great world wonderfully. It really is even artistic at times and an excellent proof of how wonderful French animation can be.
The direction is very good as is the approach and the tone of the film. It is also smart and wonderfully depicted and illustrated with great imagery. But it is above all very engaging and has some charming factor to it and a style and story that distinguished itself from most other animated movies. It is very authentic and original, while also at times being incredibly artistic and beautiful.
The King and the Mockingbird has its flaws including the lack of emotional investment, problematic third act with too much action and somewhat weak characterization, but it has style and beautiful animation in abundance with quite authentic and original plot and story to it, it is very smart, it has superb world-building, it is very entertaining and charming and thanks to all these reasons, it is rightfully called a classic and one of the finest that French animation has to offer.