Suspended animation

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As the way in which many of us were indoctrinated into a life of viewing, animation can be the most accessible form of cinema, but the work of Michel Ocelot still takes some adjustment.

Working in 3-D computer animation for the first time, the director of Kirikou and the Sorceress and its sequel unveils in his latest, Azur & Asmar, a disarming look that's at once painted and pixilated, lifelike and artificial.

His self-created fable follows brothers of the spirit: almost blindingly blond and blue-eyed Azur and Asmar, dark-skinned like his mother, the nurse who raised them both. Harshly separated as youth, they're reunited by fate on a quest to free a spellbound fairy that offers lessons in tolerance and the power of knowledge.

The tale moves at a slower pace than kids are accustomed to, and adults may find it too simplistic. On the other hand, in Ocelot's favor are two irresistible qualities: his singularly delightful way of animating children and, following the story's move to an unnamed Middle Eastern locale, imagery that's less eye candy and more eye tiramisu - layered, rich yet light, and totally delicious.

"Azur & Asmar"

Opens Friday

Grade: B+