Once Upon a Time… Man (French: Il était une fois… l'homme) is a French animatedTV series from 1978 directed by Albert Barillé. It is the first in the Once Upon a Time... franchise. The series explains world history in a format designed for children. The action focuses around one group. The same familiar characters appear in all episodes as they deal with the problems of their time.
A DVD box set of all the episodes of the series has been produced by the French production company Procidis, and distributed locally by various distributors. The DVD series was produced in French, English (not sold in UK or US), Finnish, German, Dutch, Hebrew, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. In 2011, an English language, Region 1 DVD box set is available in Canada and the United States. This set is produced and distributed by Imavision.
The episodes of Once Upon a Time… Man typically would follow one family, which most typically used the same set of archetypes that would be reused for the scenario. These same characters would later be used in the later additions to the Once Upon a Time... series, with some changes.
Maestro (Roger Carel) - The wise old man. He usually serves as the head of the tribe, as a religious priest, as an advisor to the king, or as an inventor. Maestro's hair is white and so long that it completely covers his body, and only his facial features, arms, and feet are ever visible; he is also distinguished by two hairs on the top of his head that look like antennae. Maestro often keeps objects in his beard and is sometimes seen fiddling around in it to find the one he wishes to present. He also serves as a mentor to the children of the series.
Peter / Pierre Carel (Roger Carel) - Another protagonist of the series, with brown hair, presented as an ordinary but likeable man. He is always married to Pierette and is good friends with Jumbo. He is sometimes referred to as Pierrot. In some of the episodes set in the medieval era, Peter has blonde hair and is named Bert, but his personality and relationships are the same.
Jumbo / Le Gros (Yves Barsacq) - The strong young man with red curly hair, Jumbo is tall, somewhat clumsy, and very muscular. He prefers to solve problems with his fists, and his best friend Peter often needs to indicate for him not to attack.
Pierrette (Annie Balestra) - A kind blonde woman, typically married to Peter.
The Pest / Le Teigneux (Claude Bertrand) - A strong bully and one of two common recurring villains in the series (the other being the Dwarf). He is the major rival opposing Peter and Jumbo, and is either working against them or arguing with them.
The Dwarf / Le Nabot (Patrick Préjean) - The mastermind behind the Pest, the Dwarf is short and has red hair with three spikes pointing upward. He is often the only one who supports the Pest in his actions, and is often shown as a swindler.
The Clock - A rectangular box with eyes and hands, typically coloured red, the Clock most commonly simply shows the year that the events on-screen are occurring. Occasionally, the Clock does intervene in the series in a minor role, typically to either have some emotional response like surprise or sadness to an event on-screen, or else to correct Maestro in-series when he has ideas too advanced for his historical time period.
Although historical figures would typically appear as themselves, occasionally one of the archetypes would be used, like Maestro as Leonardo da Vinci.