Animated French film teaches importance of cultural diversity

CJ Housh, Staff Writer

This Tuesday Missouri Southern will be showing “Tales of the Night” as the last film of the Tournées French film festival. This culmination of the festival is an animated extravaganza that is an enjoyable film for all ages. 

“Tales of the Night” is a series of six fairy tales from around the world, told from the point of view of a young girl, a young boy, and a theater technician that use technology found in an abandoned theater to bring to life these amazing stories. The stories range from a prince and princesses story set in Medieval Europe, to a tale of fighting an oppressing darkness in the Aztec cities, to a brilliant tale about a boy who cannot lie working for a king in Tibet. 

What makes this film unique is the animation, which is done in the form of silhouettes of the characters, animals, and foreground pieces set across colorful backgrounds with colors and shapes traditionally found in the artwork of the countries the stories are from. While at first it may seem a bit simplistic, the animation style is used to the fullest. What appears early on to be overly simple is throughout the story utilized to bring mystery and suspense to this beautifully animated masterpiece of shadow puppet style animation. 

The choice to add an animated film was an obvious one for Dr. Michael Howarth, assoc. professor of English and Director of the Honors Program. “We wanted to show a film [in the festival] that people could bring their children to,” said Howarth. 

This unique film brings a seldom considered dimension to the international mission of Southern, using cultural diversity to educate children. Several children’s programs are now designed to educate kids in other languages. An influx of Japanese anime to cable TV during the 90’s influenced many of the current generation of Southern students, which when coupled with the integration of an international community with the internet certainly has the potential to be more culturally aware than generations before. 

“An animated film is a great place to start kids with intercultural experiences,” said Howarth. “Children know animation. They’ve seen Disney films, they’ve seen Pixar. This film is also about fairy tales. Most children know fairy tales. This is a great start.” 

The comparison of Disney film to internationally produced films is an easy one to make. Disney ran a significant portion of their animation studio out of France for some time. Disney Animation France produced “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Tarzan,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” along with several TV shows before being shut down. 

Not only does Disney have a history of telling international stories such as “Mulan,” they have also licensed foreign animated films for American release. Films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli have been licensed by Disney since 1996. These films, such as “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle,” have received high praise from critics and fans and routinely win best picture awards in their home country, beating traditional live action films. 

“Tales of the Night” may close out the Tournees film festival, but it will most likely not be the last international animated film Southern shows. With such potential waiting in international animation, students can expect many more international animated films in the coming years. 

“Tales of the Night” will be shown in the Phelps Theatre April 19, 2016 at 6:30 P.M. The showing is free to all Southern students, their families, and members of the community. Children are welcome so bring your children or younger siblings.