Western Animation: Il était une fois... aka: Once Upona Time
Il était une fois... (Once Upon a Time... in English) is a French animated franchise which ran from 1977 until deep into the 2000s. It was created by Albert Barillé and released by Procidis. Each series revolved around some main subject, intended to educate the young viewers about history, biology or science.The nine different series:
Il était une fois... l'Homme (1977) (Once Upon a Time... Man). The first series. Explaining all about human history from the creation of the universe until World War II. In the final episode, it branches slighty as part of future predictions concerning pollution and warfare, by presenting an optimistic path.
Il était une fois... l'Espace (1982) (Once Upon a Time... Space). The second series. The only series that is pure fiction and with little educational intent. It's a science-fiction story taking place in the far future when space travel is in vogue.
Il était une fois... la Vie (1986) (Once Upon a Time... Life). The third series in which the human body is explored.
Il était une fois... l'Amérique (1989) (Once Upon a Time... the Americas). The fourth series, telling a chronological history of North, Middle and South America.
Il était une fois... les Découvreurs (1994) (Once Upon a Time... the Discoverers). The fifth series, a chronological history of famous inventors.
Il était une fois... les Explorateurs (1996) (Once Upon a Time... the Explorers). The sixth series, a chronological history about famous explorers.
Il était une fois... la Musique (2008) (Once Upon a Time... Music). The seventh series, about the history of music, only released in spain.
Il était une fois... notre Terre (2008) (Once Upon a Time... Planet Earth). The seventh and final series, about environmental issues.
Once Upon a Time... Tropes:
Once Upon a Time... every series
And Knowing Is Half the Battle: All series are educational in tone. Sometimes they tend to be a bit too difficult and/or confusing for the target audience by assuming that they already know a lot about the topic. Especially in Il était une fois... l'Homme, certain historical events or people are quickly glossed over or merely name-dropped. Too much time will be spent on zany Slapstick antics involving the main characters instead of explaining historical events more clearly.
Big Bad: Two men are always cast as the villains. The large one is a brute and the small one is the sneaky one too frightened to actually do anything himself.
The Dark Age of Animation: Made during this time period and it often shows. Particularly Il était une fois... l'Homme suffers from stiff animation, not always matching up with the soundtrack and characters making/striking weird facial expressions and poses.
From Beyond The Fourthwall: The clock at the corner of the screen sometimes reminds characters of an error they're making. For example, Maestro using modern numbers in 350 BC, or a viking woman upset that her lover isn't monogamous.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: There are occasional adult themes, such as sex and nudity. Sometimes merely suggested, other times casually shown. They probably got away with it because it's all meant to be educational.
Hammerspace Hair: Maestro tends to hold large objects in his hair, and in one episode of the first series, merges two small boards into a longer board.
Once per Episode: Usually the sneaky small villainous character tries to get what he wants, but is thwarted by the good characters. He will run to the big villain for help, but the muscular good character always fights and defeats the big villain, causing the little villain to run away in fear.
Regular Character: The same characters are shown in each episode — with each episode being a different section of history.
Universal-Adaptor Cast: No matter whether they are children or adults, in space or in the human body or what historical time period they're in, the same characters in their distinctive characteristic roles are always re-used.
Bubbly Clouds: A pilot in World War I dives out of the plane, lands on a cloud to catch breath, before using the parachute to reach the ground.
Bungling Inventor: While Maestro does show inventions, there are plenty of episodes where they break down. In some cases, the mechanical devices explode.
By The Hair: A variation, where the pre-humans pulled their desired women by the hair. The women offered no resistance, as if they wanted to be dragged along.
Conscription: There's at least two means of conscription shown. The eleventh episode shows a man dragging two to the volunteer booth for the crusades. Later episodes use thugs to force signatures, and an even later one has them sign while drunk.
Creator Provincialism: Once Upon a Time... Man has its own problems on occasion. In 26 episodes, aired between 1979 and 1981, the show covers world history from the birth of planet Earth and the evolution of life up to the 1970s. While fairly accurate and attempting to be objective, the show covers important events and eras as seen from a Western perspective. Most of the action takes place in Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. Figures like Pericles, Julius Caesar, Muhammad, Charlemagne and Peter I of Russia get entire episodes devoted to them. But the cultures of the rest of Asia, Africa and pre-Colombian America are hardly represented. For example, out of the entire history of China, only Kublai Khan gets the spotlight treatment and then only through his interactions with Marco Polo.
Unlike a number of examples, this can at least be justified as budget constraints. You can only condense so much global history into 26 episodes at 25 minutes each without becoming too general; as such, it makes sense for an educational children's TV series to show the history of places that are the most immediately important for them — which is, for a French kid, Europe and surroundings.
Down in the Dumps: The final episode shows attempts to clean up a junkyard that's become aggressive.
Gory Discretion Shot: The guillotine is only shown chopping the head off a cigar, to symbolize an execution.
Et Tu, Brute?: The English version plays the trope straight. However, the original French version has Caesar saying "Toi aussi, mon fils" (You too my son).
Family-Unfriendly Violence: While it was kept within certain limits, the depiction of historical realities like murderous brutality, implied sexual violence and death can be rather startling with the cartoony imagery of the series.
Fat Girl: The episode concerning trains had a minor obese character having trouble squeezing in through the train's doorway.
I Surrender, Suckers: The Vikings had difficulty assaulting a fortress. Because of the failure, they approached the castle to parley, saying that their chief was killed in battle — and as such, they wish to convert to Christianity; the chief is to be buried with his weapons as per their tradition. Once inside, the chief jumped out of the coffin, passed the weapons the allies, and started the rampage.
Judgment of Solomon: Depicted as originally described. Then, a later episode spoofs the judgement with two men fighting over ownership of a pig, with a suggestion to cut the pig in half.
Raptor Attack: Archaeopteryx incorrectly has four fingers on its wings, with the feathers attached at its wrist.
Right on Queue: Episode 14, where assassins burst into a house, having the door slammed after the third one. The first three are hung from the window above. The door then opens, asking for the next in line to enter.
Road Sign Reversal: In the episode with the 1910-era automobile racing, one group was ahead of the pack, and decided to mess everyone behind by adjusting a road sign to Bordeaux. However, the previous scene showed the sign being spun by a breeze, and the cheaters actually corrected the sign before going down the wrong road.
Stock Dinosaurs: Archaeopteryx, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Apatosaurus (called Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, Pteranodon, Elasmosaurus, Tylosaurus, Edmontosaurus (called Anatosaurus and is incorrectly depicted with a crest), Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus rex all appear in the first episode.
Totem Pole Trench: The second episode has two children use a grass skirt to look taller.
Walk This Way: The episode for Louis XIV has one drill sergeant try to train new recruits. The instructor trips over a rock, tossing the rifle into the air, and hitting the other instructor. The three recruits do the exact same thing, landing their thrown rifles on the same instructor.
Always Chaotic Evil: General Pest, Glorious Leader of Cassiopeia — said to be chosen because masses follow him. From using slaves to build a massive base in a planet near of a star close to going supernova (and when it happens prefering to save first the hardware and later the people) to allying with the Humanoids hoping to betray them later.
Artistic License - Astronomy. Despite this cartoon having an educational side teaching basic astronomical concepts, there're some examples of this trope. The different alien races are said to come from different constellations — examples include Auriga, Cassiopeia, Centaurus, and many others, with Cassiopeia even using the W formed by the brightest stars as seen from Earth as their symbol, when from their homestars those constellations would be unrecognizable as the stars that form them are usually at very different distances one of each other. This goes even further in the episode three ("The Green Planet"), where we see and are said how Cassiopeia controls several (including, it seems, the Andromeda Galaxy), and even two crude starmaps showing those asterisms can be seen as background. This overlaps with Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, because sometimes, such as in "Towards Andromeda", the Omega Confederation as well as Cassiopeia are implied to have arrived so far away as NGC 7052, a galaxy at around 190 million light-years from the Milky Way.
Asteroid Thicket: Several examples, starting with Sol's one as appears quite prominently on the show's opening credits. Avoided, however, with the rings of Saturn.
The near-complete destruction of the Cassiopeian Navy by the Humanoids in the episode "The Battle of the Titans".
The ending of the series, with the Humanoids being destroyed by the beings of light met by Psi in the episode "The Infinity of Space" counts too.
Deflector Shields: There're at least two types: magnetic ones, used by the Confederation to deflect metallic asteroids, and subnucleonic ones, used by the Humanoids.
Do-Anything Robot: Metro, the robot built by Maestro and sidekick of the two main protagonists, who looks a lot like its maker. Of the many abilities it has, the most used are a pair of antennae that can use to hack into another robots or computers, Eye Beams (RayGuns), wheels, and can open the plates of its body to become a helicopter.
Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Humanoids try their planet-destroying ship, actually formed of six smaller vessels that join together, with what looks like a Moon-like planet after defeating the Cassiopeians, the Great Computer menaces to do that with their homeworld if they do not surrender. There're two others involving stars, one of them natural when an unstable star (Kohler's Sun if memory is correct) goes supernova, in the episode "A Planet Blown to Pieces", and the other of them induced by energy beings to destroy the Humanoid fleet in the last one.
Energy Beings: Psi, the female protagonist who has psionic habilities, knows some of them who destroy the Great Computer and its fleet in the last episode.
Hammer Space: Metro. As his maker within his beard, he stores a lot of things between the plates that make its body. He qualifies, too, as Hyperspace Arsenal.
Hollywood Tactics: Fleet officers of all sides seem to be very fond of having their ships flying in very compact formations, even if there's more than plenty of space to deploy their ships and if it's a very bad idea as can be seen next:
At the end of the episode "A Planet Blown to Pieces", when a fleet of five Cassiopeian warships go to the planet where they have their base even if that planet was destroyed by the Kohler's Sun becoming supernova. The flaming meteors produced by the supernova (don't ask) impact in one of the ships blowing it up, its debris hitting the other four and destroying all but one of them.
"The Battle of the Titans" features even better ones starting with the (admittely cool and even more with the background music) shots of the Cassiopeian navy marching to battle, during the battle with the Humanoid fleet, the first shots of the latter destroy many ships of the first battle line (battle wall actually) being so tightly deployed. Much later, one unfortunate Nautilus is blown apart both by Humanoid fire as well as debris from another that was close and was hit at the same time. Finally, at the end of the episode, the ship where Pierrot and his crew landed and left explosive charges blows up apart destroying in a chain reaction what seems to be a sizable chunk of the Humanoid navy.
Human Aliens: Those prehistoric humans in one planet of the Andromeda Galaxy in "The Cro-Magnons".
Humans Are Bastards: The episode "The Long Voyage" features a ship launched by the Earth in the XXIth century and that finds Omega. One of the things they bring is a set of what look like video tapes depicting the human species in a good, light-hearted and optimistic way, that are stolen by Cassiopeian agents and played in their planet. Among other thigs, the video starts with two hunters shooting a deer, continues showing a heavily polluted, over-populated planet and a huge traffic jam said to last more than a day and having beaten a previous record, and ends showing tanks and nuclear missile-launching trucks boasting with the high number of explosives per inhabitant in Earth.
Human Subspecies: some dialog and images (in the episode "Earth") suggest what seem to be alien races may actually be that.
The Nautilus warships of Cassiopeia are proved to be more than a match for the Omega warships, until the Confederation develops heavy cruisers to counter them.
The greatest Humanoid warships qualify too, mopping the floor with an armada of Nautilus.
The rocket featured in the episode "The Unstoppable Menace", launched by the Humanoids against Earth. Faster than any other ship of the Confederation (see below), impossible to intercept, and protected by a very powerful shield. Pierrot and his friends are able to intercept it, slip through the shield, and change its course to the Sun. Later is known the Humanoids planned to have it burning on Earth's atmosphere without hitting it — unlike what Pest wanted.
The heavy cruisers of the Omega Confederation are presented as a ship able to defend against any threat. They, however, never fire their weapons in anger during all the series.
Planet of Hats: In several episodes the protagonists travel to planets that turn around this trope such as a planet habited by the Greek Gods (episode "The Planet Mytho"), other by Incas (episode "The Incas"), and other by prehistoric humans — oddly enough, this one is in the Andromeda Galaxy — in "The Cro-Magnons".
Point Defenseless: The Nautilus as seen in the episode "A Planet Blown to Pieces". After finding how it's nigh invulnerable to the Omega warships attacking it as well as destroying one of their vessels, Pierrot has the ship where he's dodging the shots of the Nautilus and approaching it to point-blank range to torpedo the enemy ship down the throat.
Rapunzel Hair: Psi's hair comes down to her hips. Maestro's beard to his feet.
Robot War: The conflict first between the Humanoid and Cassiopeian forces and when the latter are defeated the one between the Humanoids and Omega. There're two other episodes ("The Revolt of the Robots" and "The Revenge of the Robots") where this trope appears too. Both other instances are revealed to have been engineered by the Humanoids.
One race that comes from the Andromeda Galaxy resembles the Andorians from Star Trek.
There're also other shout-outs in the dialog, such as when the Computer greets the people from Omega using the phrase "Welcome to the Rendezvous with Yama".
In the episode "Earth", we visit an Earth that is recovering of centuries of pollution and worse and there's an orbiting theme park named "Barillé's Land". Albert Barillé was the creator of the series.
In one of the episodes ("The Rings of Saturn") the protagonists visit the largest planets of the Solar System. While the moons of Jupiter are described in some detail showing the knowledge of them that existed at the epoch the cartoon was made (what the Voyager probes found there in 1979 and 1980 such as a ring around Jupiter or the volcans of Io), the moons of the others are described much more vaguely and even appear as nearly featureless orbs since at that time knowledge about that topic was very limited. This can be noted, too, in the opening credits.
The times given for the rocket that appears on the episode "The Unstoppable Menace" to cross the orbit of the different planets of the Solar System are consistent with it moving at around 240,000 kilometers per second (0.8 times the speed of light).
Space Is Noisy: From the sounds made by the engines of ships to the one caused by their weapons. Not that it's exclusive just to this show, though.
Starfish Aliens: some alien races mentioned in the episode "The Cro-Magnons".
Stun Guns: Paralysing guns are standard sidearms for the Space Police, although they have deadlier Ray Guns too. Interestly enough, the protagonists use the paralyzers against living targets; against non-living ones such as robots they use the lethal guns. As seen in "In the Land of the Dinosaurs", though, the paralyzers aren't terribly efficient against large predators, only affecting them a couple seconds.
Telepathy: Psi (also known as Mercedes or Kira in other languages).
Theme And Variations Soundtrack: The soundtrack of this series has some themes that follow this trope, being variants in different musical styles of a single theme (from synthethizer or jazz to chamber or orchestal music).
2-D Space: in the penultimate episode, the admiral of the Cassiopeian fleet talks several times about lines of ships, when in a three-dimensional space one would be talking of walls and if even both his fleet and the Humanoid one are deployed so. As if Space was an ocean.
Turned Against Their Masters: The robots in the episodes "The Revolt of the Robots" and "The Revenge of the Robots", both taking place in the same planet and wanting to be trated as humans.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Great Computer and the scientist who created it, who offered it to their fellows as a way to have the humans living in peace. It turns out the concept the Great Computer has of giving peace to the men is having them tightly controlled and living without technology as in the Middle Ages. At least the computer is indirectly shown experimenting to see if there are better ways...
What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: During the battle between the Cassiopeia and Humanoid fleets, and when their finest warships, the Nautilus-class, are being slaughtered by dozens, one of the officers onboard the flagship begs the admiral to think about how useless is the battle and how it's more of a suicide. In the same battle, the Humanoids tell two times their opponents to surrender, the third and last one coming with the warning of destroying their homeworld if they don't comply.
World Tree: A big, sentient tree found in one lush planet of the Pegasus sector without intelligent animal life, that appears in the episode "The Green Planet". It turns it dislikes those people who mess with nature.