Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

My Generation

by Luis de Sousa Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 07:16:34 AM EST

The weather's been messing up again and I find myself at home in this Sunday morning. Maybe a good time for some cleaning, set some things in order and answer some correspondence. I find out that some of my local friends are running some sort of campaign to change all their profile pictures at Facebook to comics or cartoons characters. It's quite funny to see al those images from the early years: Tom Sawyer, Donald Duck, the Coyote. There's no doubt which cartoon I'll chose to join this campaign.

Simple things can sometimes be quite defining of a generation. Mine is that set of folk to whom the videos below bring up a tear to the eye.

A long, long time ago in a distant galaxy, there were folk who actually cared for the education of their children, nurturing products that were both entertaining and educational, not just mind plugging devices that keep them quiet while their parents go shopping.

I was born in 1978. By coincidence or not it was during that year that a French animation company, leaded by Albert Barillé, started a true saga with the Il était une fois... series. Backed by several TV broadcasters all across Europe, it grew to be one of the most important productions for children in the continent.

The first three series accompanied my childhood:  L'Homme,  L'Espace and  La Vie. The first was a set of disconnected portraits of Universal History, with both humour and some mystery, always leading to a teaching, meaningful ending. L'Espace was more refined, the 26 episodes were connected by a grand plot staged in a high-tech future with a less clear, but perhaps more important, meaning. This series heroes travel across space meeting other civilizations, some times more advanced from which they learn, sometimes less advanced, to whom they teach, some times ill intended, with whom they have to deal. L'Espace is about Man's place in the world, dominating without destroying, adapting to what's more powerful. With La Vie the option was again for disconnected episodes, each one focusing on a particular aspect of our body. Most of what I know about Physiology still comes from this series, cartoons make it all more easy to perceive; we owe many of the medics and nurses of today to La Vie.

But of these series the one that had the most impact on me was L'Espace. L'Homme was transmitted by the state TV (the only one that existed at the time) for the first time in 1980 or 1981, but it wasn't dubbed, and since I couldn't read the subtitles only got in the way. For L'Espace they decided to get professional and dubbed it, transmitting the series soon after it was available from France. I yearned every weekend for each episode, it was not only the fancy starships, fancy suits and robots, it was the whole futuristic high-tech setting - I really believed the world would be like that one day and I might just live long enough to see it happen...

 L'Espace really sums up what being a child is to me: having the whole life in front of you, all things are possible, the sky is the limit. It is the hope that we can fix everything's that's wrong when we grow up. The infinite and unknown of Space is the perfect allegory for those early days.

And nothing does a better jog bringing those emotions back than the series generic song. Popular Music was still an art those days and the French produced quite a remarkable piece, perfectly enclosing those feelings of hope and high expectations:  

Other broadcasters made their own versions of this song, an indispensable part of the dubbing. While sticking pretty much to the original, the British chose a compelling female voice that added something else to the song:

These sort of emotions are something hardly found in German music, especially at the epoch. With Machinemusik fully established in those parts, they opted for an electronic version, possibly trying to match the futuristic setting of the series:

In Spain they produced a different song, not really that good:

But well, by far the best version of this song was recorded here. For the vocals was chosen Paulo de Carvalho, a pioneer of rock back in the 1960s and at the time one of the best male voices in Portugal; he'd reach tones higher than any of the other interpreters. And the cherry on top of the cake was the children chorus:

Two minutes of jollity, still one of my favourite pieces of music (maybe that's why I listen to space music today). There's another interesting aspect to this song, the spacey and futuristic environment, the chorus, the orchestra, the piano, it's all highly reminiscent of the greatest rock album ever made in Portugal: 10 000 Anos Depois entre Vénus e Marte, which was, coincidently or not, finished in 1978.

When I listen to Era uma vez o Espaço, down deep I believe again a better future is possible, no matter how bad things may look today.

I was a long way from a TV set in the years you mention, and never saw any episodes of Il Etait Une Fois...

Try this one for some earlier space pop, around one of the first telecom satellites:

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 09:16:48 AM EST
Aaaah the late great Joe Meek...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:50:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
why does UMG hate us here in Schland?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 02:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The organ is cool, a very early usage of this instrument in pop/rock. But calling this space is a bit difficult.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 09:02:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But this just has to be done

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:53:17 AM EST
Be my guest, I'm from a later generation but these guys rocked. John was one of the most brilliant musicians I've ever heard.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 09:03:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition bass player to be a one-man orchestra.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 09:26:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure you're all aware that the animation was directed by a Borg.  René Borg.

And that mattes were done by a Rimbaud.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 01:58:41 PM EST
Ha! Il était une fois... made an impact on me, too. It arrived a few years later. The state TV here never showed any children's programme subbed, only dubbed.

However, L'Espace wasn't imported, only the other two you mention. So what I remember well is the opening of L'Homme, I got to love Bach's organ works because of that.

I got a glimpse of the later series a few years ago, and those didn't impress me at all, though. (Maybe I just got older?)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 05:07:22 AM EST
That looks like a really nifty show.  As a person of the same era,  born in 1977 but on the wrong continent, and an utter SF fanatic in my youth, I'm rather sad I didn't get a chance to see it.  The ship design and visual aesthetic matches what I saw produced on a fair bit of gaming-related SF of the era, but is nothing like anything that made it on to TV.

The most memorable theme song, by far, from my childhood was the Transformers theme, which was utter crap.

On the other hand, I notice quite a few visual design similarities with another SF show produced in the same era, although in a vastly different tradition.
Mobile Suit Gundam is far and away the class of the giant robot set. That's also the one song I can properly sing in Japanese, and since the pitch and style match my voice better than the vast majority of music I actually like, it's probably my best karaoke song.

I was going to embed the videos for both of those, but as usual I can never get anything to attach to anything, ever.

by Zwackus on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 05:16:18 AM EST
There is also Les maîtres du temps (Timelords) from the same year (1982). (It was rather scary when I saw it first as a kid.) This one is a movie, all of it is on YouTube in HQ, below the first of eigth parts.

The SF visual aesthetic in the above is from influential French cartoonist Moebius. I suspect Il était une fois... l'Espace was at least inspired by his work, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:07:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is really cool. I never heard of this movie before, must watch one of these days.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 08:50:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That makes sense.  I've never heard of Moebius, so it's not surprising that the character design and whatnot is of an unusual style.  It's interesting that, while US kids programming was open to importing dubbed Japanese series, I don't think we got anything from Europe other than the Smurfs.  Many of my favorites were Japanese imports, especially Tranzor Z (Majinga Zed) and Robotech (Macross).  Of course, I had no idea they were Japanese imports at the time.
by Zwackus on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:25:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moebius is one of the pen names (used for his scifi and fantasy work) of Jean Giraud, arguably the greatest French cartoonist. Just a few examples:

See also a Miyazaki-Moebius exhibition in Paris a few years ago.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the people who is high on my list of favourites

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:09:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a strong link to Japan, too:

Jean Giraud - Wikipedia

In 1988 Moebius worked on the American comic character The Silver Surfer with Stan Lee for a special two-part limited series. Giraud also happens to be a friend of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. From December 2004 to March 2005, the two of them shared an exhibition at La Monnaie in Paris which showcased work by both artists.[5] He even named his daughter Nausicaä from Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.[6][7]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:04:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to have been marked by the "Il était une fois" series. In the 90s, I found that there was nothing much on French TV that I wanted my kids to watch, so I indoctrinated them with the excellent series
"Ma petite planète chérie" (my dear little planet), an ecolo-pedagogical series by Rémy Girerd.

And it turns out that it has just been released as a feature film... 15 years later.

Girerd's studio Folimage has had a couple of successful feature films in a similar vein.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:01:40 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]