History of the movie
All begun in 1947 when Grimault and Prévert decided to adapt a tale by Andersen, "La bergère et le ramoneur". They brought together a big animation team and set to work : Prévert wrote the script, Grimault was directing. Joseph Kosma was to write the songs. Unfortunatly, the work wasn't coming along, either because Grimault was too meticulous, or maybe all the members of the team weren't fanatics ; hard to make up one's mind. Eventually Grimault and Prévert were fired by the production team that released the movie in 1953, although it was denied by its main authors.
Fifteen years later, after having founded another studio, Grimault managed to buy the film negative back. He asked Wojciech Kilar to write the music of what was to become his masterpiece. He even offered him to rewrite Kosma's songs, but Kilar, who is a great admirer of Kosma's, refused. The movie went out in 1980, but Prévert never saw it.
Extract of an interview with Pierre Nicolas
Neuilly-sur-Seine, August 5, 1991
(Pierre Nicolas is one of the two most important French Disney comic book artists along with Claude Marin. He drew for 27 years the mythical French series Mickey à Travers les Siècles (Mickey Through Time) and created the studio that helped re-launch Le Journal de Mickey after the war.)
Then, as all the artists of my generation, I entered the studio of Paul Grimault who was preparing La Bergère et le Ramoneur, his major animation feature. It did not go that well, since after 2 or 3 years Grimault was a bit playing Penelope. I mean by that that after a team had worked for over a year on animating a character, he would come over and ask for everything to be changed. It was like that for everything.
His best friend who was financing the movie at the time got fed up and stopped providing him with money. I heard that more than 100 million French francs had been invested in the movie. That was a huge amount.
As Grimault was part of the Groupe Octobre, a kind of avant-garde intellectual association, that included Jean Marais, Cocteau and others, he had many relations. He managed to get the State to finance the movie and poured an other 150 to 200 millions in the movie. The movie was released but Grimault did not like it, so he started spending an other 30 years working on it before finally releasing more or less the same thing but under the name Le Roi et l'Oiseau (The King and the Bird).