In 1979, TVE premiered the cartoon series Erase una vez… el hombre, in whose header human evolution was summed up, while Beethoven’s Septimino in E flat major was heard, accompanied by lyrics written by Jose Luis Perales, and sung by the children’s group Caramelos, which began like this: “Once upon a time there was a sad and dark planet…”. The melody later said: “…and the Lord, who thought, from today, I will take care of all these things”, giving the lyrics a creationist meaning, although in the series evolution was highlighted and religions were left in the background.
The original series, which consists of twenty-six episodes of twenty-five minutes each, is French and debuted in our neighboring country the year before. In the French version, the header has no lyrics, and the images are accompanied by Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Once upon a time… the man was a master class in History as well as a fun cartoon series, created by the French producer and director Albert Barille, with such success that it had six sequels: Once upon a time… the space (1982), Once upon a time… life (1987), Once upon a time… the Americas (1991), Once upon a time… the inventors (1994), Once upon a time… the explorers ( 1996) and Once upon a time… science (2000); always with the same protagonists. Albert Barille (1920-2009) was a screenwriter and founder of the television production company Procidis. Also known for the animated series Colargol. Barille showed interest in children’s education through his TV series, uniting his love for knowledge, culture and tolerance with entertainment.
The series covers chronologically from the origin of planet Earth to the Cold War and the beginning of the space race; and an anthropomorphic digital clock gives the dates (the majority of the population used a wristwatch with hands), whose expressions reflect what happens in the chapter. All the series have fixed characters, among which the Master stands out, who acts as an inventor in all the chapters, and as a genius of the arts and sciences in some. For example, in the Renaissance he plays Leonardo Da Vinci; and in the French Revolution, the inventor of the guillotine, who dies beheaded, but continues to appear in later episodes in other roles.
The Master is accompanied by his friends Pedro, el Gordo, Flor, Pedrito, Pequena Flor and Gordito, who are the protagonists of all the adventures; and his adversaries the Canijo and the Tinoso, who are always the antagonists.
Pedro and el Gordo act as warriors in the chapters where a battle is fought, sometimes they even appear both fighting against versions of themselves that are part of the enemy army.
The teleseries was broadcast by the French network France Regions, FR3. Also participating in the making of this series were Belgium (Radiodiffusion-Television Belge, RTBF/Belgische Radio en Televisie, BRT); Canada (Radio-Canada Society and ACCESS Alberta); Spain (Radio Television Espanola, RTVE), Italy (Radiotelevisione Italiana, RAI); Japan (Tatsunoko Production); Norway (Norsk Rikskringkasting, NRK); Netherlands (Katholieke Radio Omroep, KRO); Sweden (Sveriges Radio AB, SR); and Switzerland (Societe Suisse de Radiodiffusion et Television, SSR).
It was sold worldwide with great success: only the United States, Australia and New Zealand were missing. After being broadcast, it was distributed in the domestic format of the time, VHS, and its DVD release was on November 27, 2013. The series became very popular in the eighties, although RTVE did not like the Spanish Golden Age versions. nor of the Black Legend, which they considered biased.
In 2017 this comic was released in which the original series is faithfully respected, although updated to include the latest scientific and historical findings, and with a renewed appearance thanks to the drawings of Jean Barbaud, a French artist who knows how to give expressiveness to characters.
These aren’t the first Once Upon a Time comics… man. In 1979, a Spanish version was published that had texts by Victor Mora, the screenwriter who created Captain Thunder.

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