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Il était une fois... l'homme 

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)


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The first episode, dealing with prehistory, presents many thoroughly outdated theories originating from the early 20th century.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 »


Followed by Il était une fois... l'espace (1982) 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

Fun and informative history series for kids aged 6 to 12
25 April 2007 | by nichtssagendSee all my reviews

"Es war einmal der Mensch" (German) / "Once Upon a Time... Man" (English) is just about the next best children's program/series after "Es war einmal das Leben" (German) / "Once Upon a Time... Life" (English). History is a dry topic and as someone who always found it boring throughout school, even I like watching episodes of this series with our children and fondly remember seeing it as a kid when it originally aired.

The series is very well made, does not show its age, and our kids at various ages really like to watch it. At the same time, they gain knowledge about history us parents didn't have until way, way later. The series covers everything from the birth of the universe (assuming the Big Bang theory is correct), through evolution, prehistoric times, all centuries, to the last episode looking towards the future of humankind. While most episodes are great, some, around the dark ages, need the support of the fun characters as these times are really just a string of people's conquests, rebellions, new leaders, etc. (hence "only" 8 out of 10). The evolution is covered in a sensitive way, leaving some scope for interpretation of this topic which may be contentious with some people, and similarly, episodes covering religious events such as the birth of Jesus and Islam look only from a historic angle.

Throughout the series, familiar characters give a personal context to history. The topics covered are well balanced, globally speaking, and chosen for their significance. The last episode, looking towards the future of humankind one of the best, pondering increasing environmental destruction, pollution and wars and while presented for children's viewing is very worthwhile to watch for adults as well.

This is one of the best ever children's programs - I would say it's a must see for every family with kids!

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