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Once Upon a Time... Man 

Il était une fois... l'homme (original title)
A comprehensive animated survey of the evolution of humanity and the history of predominately Western Civilization.


Albert Barillé






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Series cast summary:
Annie Balestra Annie Balestra ...  Pierette 26 episodes, 1978
Albert Barillé Albert Barillé ...  Narrator 26 episodes, 1978
Yves Barsacq Yves Barsacq ...  Le Gros 26 episodes, 1978
Claude Bertrand Claude Bertrand ...  Le Teigneux 26 episodes, 1978
Roger Carel ...  Maestro / ... 26 episodes, 1978
Patrick Préjean Patrick Préjean ...  Le Nabot 26 episodes, 1978


In this series, the history of humanity and Western Civilization is surveyed. To illustrate this in an entertaining way, a cast of specific characters are recast in each episode as they live their lives in each major historical period of focus. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Procidis [France]



Release Date:

1978 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Byl jednou jeden... clovek See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(26 episodes) | (30 episodes)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The first episode, dealing with prehistory, presents many thoroughly outdated theories originating from the early 20th century. While widely accepted when the show was made, they have been overturned by scientific advancements beginning from the 1980s. Among other inaccuracies, it depicts herbivorous dinosaurs as swamp dwellers, proposes the unsubstantiated idea that carnivorous dinosaurs were afraid of water, and claims that crocodiles descended from dinosaurs. Brachiosaurus is said to have been the largest land animal at 50 tons, but modern-day estimates are significantly lower and many larger dinosaurs have since been discovered. The Anatosaurus is nowadays called Edmontosaurus, and while more recent findings suggest it did have a head crest, it probably wasn't as big as the cartoon version. The Elasmosaurus is incorrectly shown with a bendy neck and Tylosaurus has a ridge on its back and no tail fluke. Furthermore, the extinction of non-bird dinosaurs isn't given an explanation, only depicted as a large earthquake and droughts, because the show was produced years before evidence of an asteroid impact came to light. One of the more forward-thinking theories presented is the now-accepted fact that birds came from dinosaurs, though the animation falsely shows Archaeopteryx (long regarded as the "first bird") descending from generic thecodonts instead of dinosaurs (the term "thecodont" is not in use anymore, these days they would be called archosaurs). See more »

Alternate Versions

Aspect Ratio is changed from it's original 1.33:1 to 1.66:1 in remastered versions for TV and Digital Plaforms. See more »


Followed by Il était une fois... la vie (1987) See more »


Tausend Jahre sind ein Tag
Music by Udo Jürgens
Lyrics by Siegfried Rabe
Performed by Udo Jürgens
(main theme: German version)
See more »

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User Reviews

an optimistic and encouraging cartoon
3 October 2006 | by aizkomendiSee all my reviews

An unforgettable animated series from our childhood. The very cheerful introducing song and pictures, with a fish disturbingly evolving into a lizard and on into a chimp and finally becoming a man, made us stare at it in amazement. I find the series greatly encouraged the intellectual excitement and imagination of the children in Europe of the late 70s and early 80s for the extraordinary events and stories told in the cartoons.

The plot of the stories with five-six recurring and distinctive characters quarreling with each other made the cartoons attractive to the eyes of the little ones. The weird storyteller with a long white beard and the clock that could speak rendered the pictures all the more enticing.

To sum up, it struck a chord in our generation, with its colourful, cheerful and optimistic images and tunes.

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