Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / The King and the Mockingbird

Go To

A classic French animated film (French title: Le Roi et l'oiseau, literally The King and the Bird) directed by Paul Grimault, with one of the longest development times in animation history; even longer than The Thief and the Cobbler.note 

King Charles V+III=VIII+VIII=XVI, ruler of Tachycardia, is a vain, spiteful bully whose life's passion is hunting - not that he's particularly good at it, owing to being cross-eyed. His greatest foe is the titular Mockingbird, who seeks revenge on the king for killing his wife while hunting, and mocks him at every turn. When the king falls in love with a portrait of a beautiful shepherdess, the mockingbird seizes on the chance to overthrow the cruel monarch once and for all.

The film is dedicated to its scriptwriter Jacques Prévert, who died in 1977 before it was fully finished. It is considered a major inspiration by Hayao Miyazaki.

The 1952 release, retitled The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird and featuring the voice of Peter Ustinov, has entered the public domain and can be viewed on the Web Archive. The Criterion Channel offers the completed 1980 version in the original French with subtitles.

Tropes related to the film:

  • 0% Approval Rating: King Charles; "He detested everyone, and everyone in the kingdom detested him."
  • Adaptation Expansion: For Hans Christian Andersen's The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, which was notably lacking in the giant robot department.
  • Adaptational Badass: The shepherdess. In the original fairy tale, the shepherdess was terrified of the outside and insisted on going back inside the house. Here, she's eager to escape and see the world.
  • Animal Talk: At first, the mockingbird roars to speak to the lions, then talks to them so the viewers understand.
  • Art Initiates Life: Three paintings and one statue come to life over the course of the film, but after a little while the film just treats them like real people. Given the film's surreal, fairy-tale quality, it's not as jarring as it sounds.
  • Art Shift:
    • The lions seem to shift between at least three different models.
    • The Chimney Sweep and Shepherdess are drawn in a more idealized, realistic style, while everyone and everything else is caricatured.
  • Asshole Victim: The real King Charles ends up thrown in one of his own holes by his self-portrait that came to life and presumably dies. However, since this is the same guy who killed the Mockingbird's wife and has the nasty habit to kill his servants for the flimsiest reasons, no one will shed a tear.
  • Bad Boss: King Charles has a nasty habit of dropping the people working for him down a hole the second they slightly displease him. Or when they know about his secret apartment. Which they only know about because he had them accompany him till there by the way.
  • The Beast Master: The blind man unintentionally (since he didn't have any mastering aspirations) ends up becoming one because his music emotionally relieves the depressed lions and even makes them dance.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The mockingbird starts helping the couple after the chimney sweep rescues one of his children from a trap.
  • Big Bad: Painting King Charles.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Real King Charles ends up quickly disposed of by his more competent self-portrait that came to life.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Mockingbird plays this role for the couple, coming to their rescue whenever they call on him. Subverted the third time they call on him, since he's in prison right alongside them.
  • Bizarrchitecture: In true surrealist fashion, the city and palace are filled with non-sensical building placement (sometimes, in a cartoonishly situational way), huge empty spaces and impossibly high towers with the endless staircases to complement them.
    • As mentioned below, King Charles' trap doors, which he is incredibly fond of. In an architectural sense and point of view however, those trap doors range from bizarre to downright impossible.
  • Blow You Away: The robot's mouth contains a turbofan which is used to give the king a Disney Villain Death.
  • The Caligula: King Charles is a classic example who combines futuristic elements with a more traditional, baroque dress code and flamboyant behavior with wanton violence and murder.
  • Camp Straight: The king and his court have some rather ambiguous mannerisms, thanks to their pretentious poses and their exaggerated hand gestures.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep are the Lovers, King Charles is the Captain, the mockingbird is Arlecchino and the blind man is Pierrot.
  • Crusading Widow: The mockingbird whose crusade revolves around a one-man resistance against the tyrant by insulting him and getting away with it. He gets a more active role once the portrait lovers freedom is threatened and by the end he masterminds a rebellion from the Lower City inhabitants and all the trapped animals that ends the evil king's tyranny once and for all.
  • Cult of Personality: King Charles has lots of statues of himself around the castle, including an assembly line making more of them.
  • Defusing the Tyke-Bomb: The cartoon features a rare example of a robot developing its own independent sentience and maybe even morality after he is rendered free of control at the end.
  • Disney Villain Death: An interesting variation as it's a horizontal one thanks to a giant robotic ventilator.
  • Distracted by the Shiny: At one point the Mockingbird distracts the king from the couple by having his fellow birds form the one thing that not even him could resist, a flattering portrait of him.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The real King Charles and the police chief are both unceremoniously disposed of.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: King Charles and the blind man who would probably be healthier skinned if he wasn't trapped for years in the underground city.
  • Entitled to Have You: King Charles' portrait is this towards the Shepherdess to the point of not caring if she says 'I do' herself or not.
  • Evil Twin: King Charles' self-portrait, that came to life. Well, even eviler than the original.
  • Faux Affably Evil: King Charles' portrait.
  • Guile Hero: The mockingbird puts his wise-cracks to good use and upsets the monarch daily and later his general way with words into starting an unusual rebellion.
  • Haunted Technology: The robot seems to have some spirit inside as he is seated at the end in such a posture as though pondering over something, and then he opens the birdcage.
  • Humans Are Flawed: An incredibly subtleinvoked example. Notice how the portrait characters are idealized in comparison to the comically portrayed humans? This is especially evident with the bumbling King Charles and his dangerously competent self-portrait.
  • Humongous Mecha: King Charles chases the Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep through the lower city with a giant robot. One of the earliest known Animated Films to depict a giant robot.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty
  • I Lied: King Charles' portrait agrees to spare the Chimney Sweep if the Shepherdess marries him. He proceeds to have him and the Mockingbird thrown to the lions first excuse he gets.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: King Charles. Justified due to him being cross-eyed, not that him or anyone near him would dare to admit it.
  • Informed Species: The Mockingbird doesn't look anything like an actual mockingbird. In the French title, however, he's simply called the Bird, with no indication as to what species he's supposed to be.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: You wouldn't expect a giant robot to show up in a story written by Jacques Prévert (and based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale to boot), but there it is anyway.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Sported by both the shepherdess and chimney sweep.
  • It Can Think: The robot is shown to have some sentience at the end when he releases the bird and crushes the cage.
  • Kick the Dog: A bad habit of King Charles (averted with his actual dog who is the only living thing in close vicinity to him not hurt or threatened by him).
  • Kill and Replace: King Charles' portrait kills him and takes his place without anyone realizing it.
  • King Bob the Nth: Parodied: King Charles' full regal name is King Charles V+III=VIII+VIII=XVI
  • Knight of Cerebus: Arguably, King Charles' self-portrait, who lacks the cross-eyes and is more cool-headed than the original when he replaces him, as well as lacking most of his his more comedic traits.
  • Large Ham: Just the mockingbird. He simply can't resist shouting at King Charles' face at every opportunity and makes sure that everyone will hear him thanks to his enthusiasm.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Turns out that feeding the blind man to the lions wasn't such a great idea.
  • Malevolent Mugshot: King Charles puts his portrait everywhere in the upper city. Everywhere.
  • Motifs: Observant viewers will notice the imprisonment motif prevalent throughout the film.
    • The entire film takes place in King Charles' castle: no one except the mockingbird is shown to leave the place until it's finally torn down.
    • King Charles is established as a(n incompetent) hunter, and has a museum dedicated to sculptures of his supposed exploits. His self-portrait hunts for the Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep throughout the castle; the latter two even find themselves in the museum.
    • Various animals are locked up in cages: the monkeys in the zoo, the big cats and bears in the dungeon; etc. Even the mockingbird's home resembles a birdcage.
    • One of the mockingbird's children, a yellow bird, repeatedly finds himself entrapped in the same yellow cage. The final scene is the giant robot freeing the bird from the cage, and smashing it once and for all.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The giant robot reduces the entire city and castle to rubble in the ending. Apart from a few shots of people running away from the wreckage it's just taken for granted that everyone, including the poverty-stricken Lower City citizens, got out alive.
  • No Name Given: The Mockingbird, Shepherdess and Chimney Sweep are never referred to as anything but that.
  • Overly Long Gag: King Charles has a ridiculously long elevator, with an attendant listing off every floor.
  • Overly Long Name: King Charles 5 and 3 make 8 and 8 make 16th of Tachycardia.
  • Papa Wolf: The mockingbird, due to his wife being killed by the king.
  • Revised Ending: The film was originally released in 1952 while still incomplete, with a standard Happily Ever After ending. The completed 1980 version replaced it with a more symbolic ending where one of the baby birds is locked in a cage and is freed by the giant robot.
  • Running Gag: The yellow chick getting caught in a trap (even after the climax).
  • Scenery Porn: The locations are absolutely gorgeous, sometimes being reminiscent of Chirico's or Magritte's paintings. Additionally, the lower city appears to be a Shout-Out to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
  • Schizo Tech: The King's castle is loaded full of weird mechanical gadgetry. And that's not even counting the giant robot.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: The mockingbird initially acts more like a Troll to King Charles until the Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep are involved but then, it's not real King Charles anymore anyway.
  • Spanner in the Works: When the Chimney Sweep and the mockingbird are forcibly put into service painting bust sculptures of the King, they deliberately paint them wrong in order to be sent to the lions' arena, where they plot an escape.
  • State Sec: The police, though they're about as efficient as Thompson and Thomson.
  • Starter Villain: Real King Charles, who arguably doubles as a Villain Protagonist for the movie's first minutes.
  • Steampunk: The setting is a retrostyle world with an abundance of weird mechanical gadgets.
  • Surrealism: A given, since both director and writer were involved with the movement early on.
  • Take That!: The name and number of King Charles the Sixteenth really sound like French monarchy. Louis the Sixteenth was the main character in The French Revolution and Charles was the most common name for French kings after Louis.
  • Talking Animal: The mockingbird and he won't let anyone forget it, as he speaks on account of everyone who doesn't dare to and therefore more than all the humans together.
  • Trap Door: Exaggerated, King Charles can open a Trap Door absolutely anywhere in the entire upper city; they even fit the size of whoever he wants to get rid of. At some point a trap door goes as far as actively pursuing its target through the room!
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: A lot of the references and satire might go over the heads of non-French viewers, as well as viewers not well-versed in art and architectural history.
  • Villainous Crush: King Charles's portrait with the Shepherdess.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Supplied by the mockingbird.
  • Walking Spoiler: There are actually two King Charles: the real one who's smug but clearly incompetent, and the self-portrait that replaces him and actually backs up his pride.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The robot is controlled from a tiny windowless compartment in its back (the pilot can't even see what's happening in front).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: This happens to everyone that King Charles drops down a hole most notably King Charles himself, who is dropped down a hole by a painting of him who comes to life, assumes his role, and is treated as if he was the king from that point onward. The fact that the button that activates these trapdoors has a skull pawn on it heavily implies the worst. Also, King Charles's dog.
  • Your Size May Vary: All over the place, fitting the surreal nature of the film.
    • Either the robot grows in size after destroying the city, or it was reduced to very fine rubble.
    • The chimney sweep and shepherdess start out smaller than the Mockingbird, but are regular-sized humans by the end.