First Stills From Michel Ocelot's Azur et Asmar!

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
I swear French animator Michel Ocelot is the next Miyazaki and between him, The Triplets of Belleville's Sylvain Chomet - currently at work on two new features - and Renaissance's Christian Volckman, France is looking like the country to watch for high quality animation right now ...

Ocelot's Kirikou and the Wild Beasts only hit French theaters in December - and the fact that no US distributor has yet picked it up is positively criminal - but he is already in post on his new film Azur and Asmar, a story about two brothers spun out of Arabic folklore. The film's sales agent have posted a series of stills from the film and they are absolutely breathtaking ... here's hoping the trailer arrives before too long. Read on for a detailed and spoiler-y synopsis and check those images here.

The Middle Ages.

Blonde, blue-eyed Azur and dark-haired, dark-eyed Asmar, grow up together in France. They live with Azur's severe father and his son's nursemaid, Asmar's gentle mother, until the father provokes a brutal separation.

Azur is sent away to study, and Asmar and his mother driven out.

Years pass.

Now an adult, Azur remains haunted by memories of the sunny land of his nurse, and by her stories of the beautiful, imprisoned Fairy of the Djinns who must be set free. He sets sail, south across the high seas, to discover the country of his dreams and find love.

But Azur is rejected by everyone he meets on account of his 'unlucky' blue eyes, until finally he resolves never to open those eyes again. The once-beautiful child clad in gold is reduced to a blind beggar, led around by a bitter, shameless profiteer and fellow immigrant.

Azur finds his nurse and her son. Still gentle and loving, she has become the richest merchant in the city, while dark-eyed Asmar has grown into a dashing horseman. He too rejects his poor foster brother.

Azur's journey continues.

Little by little, step by step, he will discover a beautiful and mysterious country. He will unearth magic objects, and encounter an old Hebrew wise man and a young Arab princess who help him on his quest.

Their rivalry fiercer than ever, Azur and Asmar set off in search of the Fairy of the Djinns. Their paths cross and re-cross. Confronted by bandits and slave traders, they become brothers again, each saving the other's life. And together they penetrate the Room of the Lights, where the Fairy awaits them.

But which of them has freed her?

The nurse, the princess, the wise old man, the vagrant, all are called forth but none can decide between the two heroes.

The Fairy then summons the Fairy of the Elves. She has no stronger opinion on the matter than the others, but finds dark-skinned Asmar very attractive, while the Fairy of the Djinns feels the same towards the fair Azur...

And finally, eight very different characters dance harmoniously together in a happy ending, as a horde of djinns rains a shower of golden stars upon them.

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