There are lots of good animated children's movies out there and there are even more bad ones. A lot of these movies get caught up in having the slickest animation or the most star-studded voice cast. With Kirikou et la sorcière, Michel Ocelot doesn't fall into any modern day animated film pitfalls. The story is based off of West African folk tales and is animated with simplistic beauty. The main character is cute but it's not this kind of pandering cuteness that seems to be the norm now.
The other important thing about Kirikou that can't be understated is the presence of Youssou N'Dour's soundtrack. I don't think anyone from the Western world can be blamed for not knowing who he is but apparently he is one of the most popular artists in Africa today. He's from Senegal and he has created a beautiful and natural score that contributes to the agelessness of Kels. Whoever made the decision to bring in N'Dour definitely added to the credibility of this production.
Somewhere in West Africa, a mother gives birth to a boy who is quite different from the others. Clearly he's magical and is already able to talk and walk. He's also incredibly quick. He names himself Kirikou (voice: Doudou Gueye Thiaw) and his village is suffering because of a sorceress living close by called Karaba (voice: Awa Sene Sarr). She has dried up the closest source of water and has allegedly killed and eaten most of the men of the village. Kirikou embarks on an adventure to find out why Karaba is so evil and to save his village.
The world that has been designed by Ocelot's team is gorgeous. The storybook animation is charming beyond belief and it's not something that will ever look old. It was made in 1998 and will still be watchable in 2048 and onwards. The story is set in West Africa and I'm sure everyone knows that it's the norm for women to be partially nude and the children to be fully nude in that area. It's pretty sad that Kirikou had a hard time getting acceptance in the United States because of the nudity and it took until 2002 before it was released. If US film regulators want to keep children from understanding other cultures that's their business I guess.
The voice acting is well done and totally credible. The actors and children doing the voices are all from West Africa and they transform this film into what could easily be an African production instead of a French one. Sound effects in Kirikou are also extremely rich and varied.
The story is simple but holds a lot of meaning and lessons that anyone can learn from. On the surface, Kirikou seems to be invincible but really he's far from it.
He spends a lot of the movie saving the lives of fellow children who still make fun of him for his stature. He admits to his grandfather that his smallness is making him afraid in a tender scene. His grandfather tells him that it is his size that is solving problems and will continue to be an advantage. Quite simply, character growth is alive and well in Kirikou et la sorcière. This is a story that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children and that's not by just throwing out random pieces of popular culture that will fly over the heads of kids.
Kirikou et la sorcière is a film that should be watched by all animated movie lovers. It's a movie that can serve as an educative tool for kids as well as entertainment for everyone. It's gorgeously animated and lovingly voiced and scored. I'd believe this film to be an African production easy. and not a French one. With Kirikou being this good I have to say that I'm a little skeptical of the sequels, because to capture this kind of magic is a tall order.