Roger Carel/Lee Payant
Jacques Morel/Hal Brav
Pierre Tornade/Yves Brainville
ASTERIX THE GAUL
The first animated film based on René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's iconic French comic-books, Asterix The Gaul was made in 1967 and was based on the first of the books. Roger Carel voiced Asterix while Jacques Morel voiced Obelix.
Set in an alternative version of history in which Julius Caesar managed to conquer all of France save for one small village where the Gauls have stayed safe thanks to a magic potion, the comics follow Asterix and Obelix, with their dog Dogmatix, on their adventures. This first film sees nearby Roman camp send one of their most dim-witted soldiers disguised as a Gaul to Asterix's village in order to find out the source of their power.
Caligula Minus, the spy in question, finds out the Gauls' secret and shows off the power of the magic potion to his superior Caius Bonus' camp. This prompts the Romans to kidnap the druid Getafix, who makes the potion, and it's then up to Asterix to find him and bring him back. This being the first story, it's mostly a showcase of how clever and fearless Asterix himself is as he single-handedly outsmarts the Romans using only his wits. Obelix isn't really a big part of this particular story but he pops up again along with the rest of the village near the very end.
The creators of Asterix were not satisfied with this movie, especially since they only found out about it once it was being screened for them. After this, they decided to be significantly involved in the making of any further projects. Their disappointment was understandable as the film is infinitely more slight than the book and it only captures some of what makes these comics so loveable. The animation throughout is patchy and the voice acting is occasionally a bit off but, on the plus side, the film does have a lot of charm.
The characters are instantly likeable, we're introduced to the most classic of Asterix music themes, there are quite a few funny, memorable moments and you definitely recognize key aspects from the book. You do get the feeling, however, that the making of the film was perhaps a bit rushed and, had a lot more work and supervision gone into the project, it could have been a lot better. It doesn't make the best use of all the characters and, watching it now, it does feel quite dated.
This first Asterix movie may be a bit of a mixed bag but it's still an enjoyable little film and a decent enough place to start if you're not too familiar with the comics or the characters. This is a fun, if slightly clunky, animated film with enough good humour and charm to make it worth it.