“To infinity, and beyond!”
If that didn’t make you think of Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story,” I don’t know what will.
Here’s another: “Let it go! Let it go!”
If the popular tune from “Frozen” is now stuck in your mind (my apologies), you were right again!
Animated movies are really memorable, plus they make you feel good and are simply a joy to watch.
So what if we could combine the magic of animated movies with the thrill of learning French?
We can! Give the verb conjugation a rest and set down those flashcards for a bit—it’s time to get the popcorn popping.
By watching movies in French you can improve your French language skills and be thoroughly entertained at the same time.
And if you want to really accelerate your learning, use our handy tips and suggestions below to learn French in the most effective way by watching some of France’s best animation movies from the comfort of your sofa.
France’s Animation Film Industry
Maybe you’ve already seen some of the most popular French movies for the screen. Indeed France is well known for its prolific film industry; it is after all the birthplace of cinema, thanks to the Lumière Brothers.
But did you know that France is also famous for its animation film industry, and has produced many notable, award-winning animated movies? Many of these are Oscar nominees and prize-winners at international film festivals.
In fact, there are over two dozen animation studios creating films for television and the movie screen in France, and the annual International Festival of Animated Film in Annecy is one of the most important international animation film festivals.
Why Learn French with Animated Movies
Watching movies in French is an excellent way to:
- Gain new vocabulary. Watching an animated movie in French is a great way to pick up new vocabulary you may not come across in your textbook. Dialogues are an especially excellent way to learn conversational French.
- Get accustomed to the accent and tone of the language. Listening is one of the most important aspects of learning. You need to hear French spoken by native speakers as much as possible to get the hang of the correct accent and tone of the language.
- Improve comprehension. It’s by listening that you gradually improve your comprehension of a language. Watching movies is a perfect way to do this.
- Be exposed to French culture. Cinema is a big part of French culture and France has a rich tradition of animated movies. By watching these animated French classics as opposed to your Disney favorites dubbed in French, you’ll get an inside look at French values and lifestyle.
How to Learn French Efficiently with Animated Movies
Here are a few tips on how you can improve your French while watching French animated movies:
- Use French subtitles. If you’re beyond the stage of beginner, instead of watching a movie with English subtitles, choose French subtitles instead. By hearing and reading the spoken text at the same time, you will not only learn new vocabulary, but also get the feeling for the correct pronunciation and intonation. If you’re still a novice to the French language, then you can start off by watching movie clips on FluentU, where videos are equipped with bilingual subtitles.
- Don’t forget to hit “pause.” To get maximum benefit, watch and listen actively. Pause and repeat if there’s a phrase you don’t understand, and be sure to jot down new words and expressions. You may want to relax and watch without pausing the first time, and then watch a second time with pen and paper in hand, pressing pause and play along the way.
- Echo the characters. To work on your speaking, choose a short clip that features a dialogue between different characters. Pause and repeat what each character says, imitating the exact same intonation they use. Animated movies often have really expressive voices, so be sure to say it with feeling! Write down the dialogue if that helps you, and make sure you understand what’s being said.
- Be the characters. After some practice echoing characters, see if you can say the dialogue at the same time as the characters, without pausing or slowing down the movie. When you think you know the clip backwards and forwards, try pressing mute and saying the dialogue aloud, being the voice of the characters’ moving lips. Definitely choose your favorite scenes for this part—it’ll be that much more fun!
8 Must-see French Animated Movies You’ll Absolutely Love
The movies recommended below are available in DVD format with French and English subtitles (if required). Many of these are available in their entirety on YouTube. We won’t include links here because they change and go offline frequently, but do try searching for them. You may find the entire film or at least a trailer, which will you give a short preview.
1. “Les Triplettes de Belleville” (The Triplets of Belleville)
Released in 2003, this is director Sylvain Chomet’s best-known film, which was nominated for two Oscars. An elderly woman, Madame Souza, lives with her orphaned grandson, Champion, who dreams of taking part in the Tour de France. When Champion is kidnapped by gangsters and taken away to Belleville, Madame Souza sets off with her dog Bruno to rescue him, encountering the Triplets of Belleville, three former music-hall singers, who help her find him.
This 2007 movie is based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, where she tells her story of growing up in Iran before, during and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. We see how her family’s everyday life is affected and the hardships they go through before she eventually leaves for Europe. “Persepolis” was nominated for an Oscar and won the Jury’s Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
3. “Kirikou et la Sorcière” (Kirikou and the Sorceress)
Released in 1998, this French-Belgian animation movie was immensely successful. Created by one of the masters of French animation Michel Ocelet, the film also features the music of Youssou N’Dour, a famous singer from Senegal. The film tells the story of Kirikou, a clever little boy who rescues his village from a spell cast by an evil witch.
4. “Le Roi et l’Oiseau” (The King and the Mockingbird)
Released in 1980, this is another French animation film classic. This was a collaboration between director Paul Grimault and poet Jacques Prévert that took 20 years to complete. Inspired by a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, it tells the story of an evil king in love with a shepherdess who herself loves a chimney sweep. A mockingbird helps the two lovers escape, bringing an end to the king’s tyrannical kingdom.
“U” was created by Serge Elissalde and Grégoire Solotareff in 2006. This animation film is about Mona, a young princess who lives sad and alone in a ruined castle. One day a unicorn called U appears and befriends her. One day a group of musicians come to the forest near the castle. Mona is fascinated by their music and a charming guitar player called Kulka.
6. “La Prophétie des grenouilles” (Raining Cats and Frogs)
Released in 2003, this animated movie by Jacques-Rémy Girerd was inspired by the story of Noah’s Ark. Ferdinand and Juliette live on a farm on top of a hill. A group of frogs living in their pond predict a coming flood and inform them about the impending disaster, just in time for them to save the animals in a zoo.
“Gandahar” is an animated science fiction and fantasy film created by René Laloux in 1988. It tells the story of the people of Gandahar who live in peace and harmony with nature. They are suddenly attacked by a group of automatons, the Men of Metal, who come from 1000 years in the future. They turn all the residents into stone and take them back to their base. Prince Sylvain eventually saves them and takes them back to their own time.
8. “Ernest & Celestine”
Released in 2012 and directed by Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, “Ernest & Celestine” is an animated comedy-drama film based on a series of children’s books by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent. It received wide critical acclaim and was the first animated film to win the Magritte Award for Best Film. The film tells the story of a bear called Ernest and a mouse called Celestine who strike up a fast friendship and become partners in crime.
Bonus Movies: Classics of French Animation
The two movies below have little to no dialogue, telling the story mostly through sounds and movements. So there’s not much opportunity hear French, but since these are both brilliant classics of French animation, we felt they belonged somewhere on this list and highly recommend them.
“La Vieille Dame et les Pigeons” (The Old Lady and the Pigeons)
This delightful animated short film, released in 1997, was written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, one of France’s best-known cartoonists, animators and film directors. “La Vieille Dame et les Pigeons” was his first animation film and was up for an Oscar. It tells the wacky story of a famished gendarme (police officer) and an old lady who feeds pigeons. The gendarme dresses up as a pigeon to trick the old lady into feeding him.
“La Planète sauvage” (Fantastic Planet)
This movie by director René Laloux is based on the novel “Oms en série” by French writer Stefan Wul, and features the drawings of artist Roland Topor. “La Planète sauvage” was one of the earliest animation films meant for an adult audience, winning the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1973. This futuristic story is about the Draggs, blue-skinned giants who have abducted the small human-like Oms (i.e. hommes) who they treat as their pets. The Oms organize a revolt and manage to return back to their planet “Terra.”
We hope you enjoy watching these French animation classics, while increasing your French vocabulary and improving your comprehension. Talking about movies is also a great conversation starter! Ask your French friends if they’ve seen any of these animation films and let them know which is your favorite. Enjoy!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.