King Matt the First (Król Maciuś Pierwszy) is a Polish–French–German animated children’s series, with dubbed versions in each language. It’s based on the children’s book of the same name, by the Polish writer Janusz Korczak, first published in 1922. The series aired in Poland from 2002 to 2006; 52 11-minute episodes were created in total.
The King Matt book tells the story of a child prince whose father dies, leaving him to become king. He finds himself—and his country—in a lot of accidental scrapes as he tries to figure out how to govern. The book is also full of social commentary, from the propaganda the king is given as “news,” to the fact that he falls in love with an African princess and exposes racism in society. In fact, in the end of the first book, King Matt’s kingdom is taken over, and he is exiled to an island. It’s only in the sequel, King Matt on a Desert Island (Król Maciuś na wyspie bezludnej), that he, and with it democracy, returns to his homeland.
The TV series has the same jumping-off point as the book, but they are far from identical: one commenter on Filmweb.pl wrote, in horror, that Korczak would be turning over in his grave as a result of the adaptation. The TV show presents Matt as trying to improve children’s rights at the expense of adults’, which of course often leads to comic consequences, but with the help of his friends things usually turn out OK in the end.
A full-length film followed the series in 2007 (though it wasn’t released in Poland until 2008). The film has the same name as the series and is considered more or less a different version of the series. There are several earlier adaptations of the original book—a Polish film in 1958 and a Polish TV special in 1997. There’s even a 2009 Russian opera, Король Матиуш Первый.
Directors: Jesse Sandor, Lutz Stützner, Andrzej Bogusz
Voice actors: Elżbieta Kopocińska-Bednarek, Tomasz Bednarek, Agnieszka Kunikowska, Józef Mika, Janusz Bukowski, Włodzimierz Press, Rafał Żabiński, Jacek Jarosz
Production studio: Telewizja Polska Agencja Filmowa (Polish version)
TV channel: TVP
The official version of the series is not available online, but you can see some clips on YouTube.