So, I´m finally doing this. This will be me rambling endlessly about an obscure anthology show of very weird animated short films from france,belgium,switzerland and germany.
Since it´s bugging me and many many other people who have been asking on internet forums for decades that there is zero info on the internet about these shows neither the french nor the german version on imdb, wikipedia or anywhere else I try to write about it as much as I can.
I will try to put this all in context (by adding bios, pics and videos where possible) without it getting too much out of hand so wish me luck.
So first a few words about the people involved and how this might have come about.
Part 1 1966-1985
René Laloux (1929 - 2004) was a french director of animated movies. His first notable short film was one of several collaborations with fellow french surrealist Roland Topor.
Roland Topor (1938 - 1997) is perhaps most famous for writing the novel The Tennant that was made into a film by Roman Polanski 1976 as well as playing small roles like Renfield in Werner Herzog´s version of Nosferatu in 1979.
He also had a very special style of drawing that first was brought to the moving pictures by Laloux in the 1966 short The Snails (full 11 minutes of it below).
In 1973 the first feature film under Laloux´s direction was released again in cooperation with Topor.
It was called The Fantastic Planet and was based on a Sci-Fi Novel by french dentist and part time novelist Pierre Pairault (1922-2003) under his pen name Stefan Wul.
It was the first of two Novels by Wul that Laloux brought to the screen(both of which unfortunatly never have been translated except Fantastic Planet in 2010 but that is out of print). The second being the less famous Time Masters released in 1982 in france and 1984 in germany(in the latter case like with Fantastic Planet it was never shown in theaters but again premiered on german TV).
The art style of Time Masters was due the cooperation with legendary french comic artist Jean Giraud aka Moebius (1938-2012 Blueberry, The Incal).
Other movies Moebius worked on include Alien, Tron, The Abyss and The Fifth Element.
Unfortunatly this was to be their only colaboration. It was (at least in germany) later used for the show that I will going to talk about in the next post. They split it into six parts since that show had six episodes in it´s german incarnation. I have no information if they used to show that movie in it´s six part split version also in france.
After Time Masters Laloux would go to TV in the mid 1980s and work on the show that was to be “De l’autre côté” (from the other side in english) in france and “Fürchterliche Freunde” in germany.
René Laloux was working with german TV executives Michel Noll and Gert Müntefering (responsible for many german children´s shows like Sendung mit der Maus) on an anthology show that roughly contained 20 short animated films made by himself and his associates. In france the title was De L´Autre Côté (From The Other Side) Laloux is credited as artistic director on all of these shorts but only directed 2 of them himself. Many of those shorts premiered on the format, others were already through the french festival circuit and had won prices. All of these shorts were between 3 and about 15 minutes, many completly without dialogue, some based on famous stories or comic books others highly experimental.
Also each episode featured at least 2 episodes of Ernest The Vampire.
Dates vary on when exactly the show was aired originally. It must have been between 1985 to 1988. It was produced by a company named Revcom and done in conjunction with France 3 and WDR in germany both of which premiered the show on TV in each country.
Notes on the german version and my personal history with it
Me being very young and all it wasn´t me who discovered the show. So someone in my family must have seen the first episode and then recorded the 5 following ones. So to this day I haven´t seen the first episode and I definitly know of one short film I have missed. Each episode started out with an intro that featured in progress footage of René Laloux final feature film Gandahar that was to be released in france and the states in 1988 (ironically not in germany, though!) followed by 3 to 4 of the short films (depending on the lenght) about 2 episodes of Ernest and rounding up with about 15 minutes of Time Masters.
You can see the first part of the intro at the end of this video. I guess it is from the french version since it doesn´t feature the german title card.
The german title was “Fürchterliche Freunde” which translates to “Terrible Friends” which partly refer to Laloux animator friends and I guess to the various creatures that appear in the shorts, the Ernest series and Time Masters.
Also there were host segments. They consisted of Laloux himself and german comedian Lisa Fitz sitting in a grey room decorated with geometrical shapes and sometimes warped by primitive 80s chorma key effects to give a surreal atmosphere. Fitz (looking most Brigitte Nielsen like at the time) would introduce the shorts to which Laloux would do nothing but nod and say “Oui!”.
Every episode would end with the dialogue:
Fitz: And next up is…
Fitz: No, next up is nothing. (it really sounds funnier in her bavarian dialect)
Since I am not sure if Time Masters was even shown in the french version I will only briefly talk about Ernest in the next part and mostly focus on the short films that were shown.
You can view all episodes of Ernest in this youtube playlist:
It was done almost entirely by Francois Bruel and José Xavier (each also had their own shorts on Autre Cote, more on them in their sections later) with Laloux being credited for art direction. It was mostly the work of Bruel though as he says so on his website. The music was done by Gabriel Yared and it was completly without dialgoue.
It seems within Un Autre Cote the first 13 episodes were aired while the remaining ones must have been shown somewhere else in the early 90s.
It´s really kind of weird, all without dialogue the music seems somewhat familar and it mixes the dark and the quirky in an unusual way. Every episodes ends with Ernest waking up from a nightmare and closing his coffin to sleep so you always wait for the buildup everytime things get weirder and potentionally dangerous to him. I think there maybe even a DVD Box in france of it, so it is the least obscure of all here.
So again pictures, info on the creators and video of the whole films where possible.
I don´t remember the order in which there were aired so I grouped them by makers and topic. There might be one or two missing I am not aware of from Episode 1 and there is also one I don´t know anything about. So I list them like this.
I The One I Haven´t Seen
Lucie s’est échappée (Nicole Dufour,?)
Everything I have on this one are pictures as well as the blog by Nicole Dufour who seems to have done a few other movies as well as some art exhibitions.
II Two I can hardly come up with anything about (but remember).
I don´t have a year or director on those.
This was a very short one. It featured a single shot from a kitchen table with a fly buzzing around. Sometimes the fly would come up really close to the “camera” and look like a really really ugly hippo with wings. At the end the fly drops into a plate filled with milk and the short is over.
This one was a very funnny one about a Ralley Car driver who cannot keep up with his opponent. The drives day and night through the desert and monologes all the time while laughing and drinking beer. His name is Robert(with a silent t as in french). He is obsessed with outrunning somebody who steadily keeps up the pace of his car. In the end they seeminlgy drive into each other and crash. Upon examination it turns out he was racing against his mirror image all the time kicking a giant mirror that seems to go through the whole desert. In german he was dubbed by swiss actor Wolfgang Heß who was famous for his laugh as Bud Spencer.
III Two Shorts Directed By Rene Laloux
Those are available as special features on the Fantastic Planet DVD. So before talking to much, check them out and set the subtitles on youtube to english.
La Prisoneere (Rene Laloux, Caza 1988)
This was made by Laloux together with Caza based on his Comic Equinoxe which was part of a volume called The Age Of Darkness which can be bought from the american Heavy Metal Magazine´s homepage.
This short is one of my personal favourites out of the whole collection.
Here is the comic:
And here the film. This short is one of my personal favourites out of the whole collection.
(some of the narration was changed in the german version and there was a bit more of it, too):
Wang Fo (Rene Laloux, Caza 1988)
This beautifully melancholic Laloux/Caza collaboration was based on an old chinese folk story collected in a volume by Margurete Yourcenar.
Here you can listen to the story
And here view the film.
IV Two by Jose Xavier and one by Francois Bruel makers of Ernest The Vampire.
Coup de théâtre
This is very short and very much in the style of Daniel Guyonnet who I will write about below. So, as you will see there. There really isn´t too much to say about this.
Pierre and his goose is a classical fairy tale feeling like movie with a moral and a twist. It is based on a story by Alexandre Dumas, I´m not sure how famous it is. Unfortunatly I don´t know too much about José Xavier and what else he did.
Mendrol(François Bruel 1987)
Mendrol the story about the diabolical supervillain of the same name in the vein of Fantomas is actually an hommage to the early silent shorts by Louis Feuillade who in the 1910s made stories for the early silver screen about that particular ellusive supervillain. He is thanked for inspiration in the credits. The film looks a bit like Ernest which is due to being made (and also pump organ scored!) by Francois Bruel who makes designs for boardgames these days. One of his creations is Shazamm!
I cannot write too much about those. You just have to check them out yourself. Guyonnet doesn´t seem to have done too much outside of shortfilms. All of them around the time the anthology show was aired.
L’escalier chimérique seems to have won prices at festivals.
L’escalier chimérique (Daniel Guyonnet 1988)
Zoo(Daniel Guyonnet, ?)
Transfiguration(Daniel Guyonnet, 1987)
VI Rather caricature light hearted stuff by Federico Vitali
Frédéric (or Federico) Vitali seems to be a bit more famous. Among other things he is famous for a series called Lava Lava! he made after the following, two.
Pépère et mémère (Frédéric Vitali)
Grampa (wearing a beret) and grandma sit by the window completly oblivious of the monsters (see below) that fool around outside of their window. Suddenly they stop to find out what grandma is so shocked about. Turns out there was a fly in her soup, which (other than the monsters outside) really made her scream.
Le miracle égyptien(Frédéric Vitali)
A class of students visits the inside of a pyramid completly bored by the sarcophagus inside the burial chamber. Someone drops a coin leaving the place which after everyone is gone is picked up by the murals on the walls that come to life at night. The creature puts the coin into the sarcophagus which makes the mummy stand up and dance for a few seconds.
VII Surreal and Melancholic pieces from Henri Heidsieck
Again I do not know much about Heidsieck, but according to his IMDB he did a few other shorts, too.
La montagne du loup(Henri Heidsieck 1986)
One day in the year 1982 as the narrator relates a shepards herd won´t go out anymore. So he goes ona a surreal journey into a cave that is shaped like a wolf. This one of the most beautiful and also most cryptic of the entire cycle.
85°Sud (Henri Heidsieck 1987)
A southpole explorer punches a hole into the deep ice with a pickaxe. He puts on an astronaut suit, jumps into the whole and comes out on the otherside floating into outerspace. I think this was the shortest of all the films.
VIII The only german film
Franz Wintzensen seems to have made a career for himself in Berlin art cycles in the late 60s and did a lot of weird shorts that were often shown on german TV. He made most of his short films with his then wife Ursula. Funnily enough Die Schubkarre is the only one I cannot find on youtube. It was also the last film of the pair they made before their seperation in 1987.
La Brouette/Die Schubkarre (Franz Wintzentsen, Ursula Wintzentsen 1986)
This lightly futuristic looking story is about a teacher who wants to make an example of a misbehaving boy. So of course she turns him into a wheelbarrow! She despairs when he just won´t turn back and bring him to his parents. Threatened by the belt of his father he turns back from a wheelbarrow to a boy. In the end he and a friend discuss the boring kind of punishments they get and say they´d rather turn into fighter jets, which is implied they do just after that.
IX Two older ones
Claude Luyet is from switzerland and seems to have done all kind of things. He has a website where part of the short is embedded. http://www.studio-gds.ch/
Twin brothers Paul and Gaetan Brizzi started out doing experimental short films. Their first “Un” released in 1973 used music by King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra among others. They also did a short called Chornique 1909. All available at their youtube channel. They went on to work on Asterix and Disney movies. They have a website at http://www.brizzibrothers.com/
Marché noir (Claude Luyet 1977)
A busy street in an urban business district. A Man walks by a shopping window and sees himself wearing the suit inside. He walks inside the shop and after a while a headless figure with the suit is seen leaving the shop while the head of the mirror images remains inside the shop.
Fracture (Paul Brizzi, Gaetan Brizzi 1977)
Closing with the best. This is far by far my favourite and it has fascinated me for almost 30 years now. It´s enigmatic, atmospheric and features music by Tangerine Dream and their main creative force the late Edgar Froese. In 1978 it was nominated for french oscar equivalent Cesar for best animated short.
So there you have it. After years of people asking about that weird movie with the angels and the microphone Time Masters has finally been released on DVD. Ernest The Vampire is also on DVD.
The rest of the shortfilms however remains super obscure. Not even Lisa Fitz has Fürchterliche Freunde on her resumée! Many of those films are also not featured in peoples biographies, but it seems some of those are still screened at festivals in france to this day.
So have you ever heard of anything of those? Is that stuff you like? Did that influence my taste in art because I first viewed it when I was 4 years old?
I cannot close this without mentioning this video in german that says everything I said and more
(especially what a pain it is to aquire the german version of the show.):
Still baffeling though that the french version seems to be just as obscure.
This was my childhood. My childhood was twisted and beautiful. Beautifully twisted!
Read me talk about this one and 14 other beautifully weird films here:
Thanks so much! This was really a lot of work to put together (and I still consiered it a work in progress, until one day all of this is available on DVD or something) so I´m thankful I at least get some kind of recognition for it!
So I just had a short look at it. It contains 12 of the shortfilms I mentioned in the post above including one I have NEVER seen before (because we missed the first episode back in the day).
Only two to three of the films have dialogue at all and it´s in french only and the only subtitles are in japanese, but it´s okay.
Unfortunatly the booklet is also japanese only so I cannot find out what it says even with google translate. But the titles are western and so are the copyright dates of the films (all from 87-88 except one from 1977).
Picture and Sound Quality looks average but it´s better than having a 30 year old VHS tape recorded from TV!
Really? I didn´t know that? So there is like a photo function where you snap a picture and then it recoginizes the japanese letters on the image and translates them to text somehow? I really didn´t know there was such a function.
You can also read manuals in Japanese and such, at least if you’re not going for deep understanding. It approaches or these days possibly even surpasses the clarity of people-generated Chinglish/Jinglish.
Edit 2: actually clear text for comparison. The translation is basically flawless here, and I was just holding the paper up in the air instead of putting it down on a flat surface. I had no idea the Chinese manual said this “before installing and using …. read the instructions for use” stuff because the English “startup guide” doesn’t feature that text. The actual content is the same.
Anyway, in this case with an available professional Sony translation it’s an impressive if senseless demonstration, but I’ve had some Chinese/Japanese stuff where this was actually really cool to have available.
Btw, that “third-party accessories may lead to failure of the breeding” stuff actually means they “can invalidate the warranty.”
Edit: and since I’m at it, here you have a sample result for an actually legible script, since OCR on those Chinese characters is probably at least as difficult a task as the machine translation, while problems on ours are more benign, with confusion between e and c and the like: