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A Superbe Year for French Animation

A record number of top-notch animated movies are slated to be released in France. Is it just

coincidence or a sign of things to come?
here must have been something special in French waters (Perrier, Evian orVittel?), because it seems that the country is churning out more high-quality
animated features than ever before. After serving up the Oscar-nominated The Illusionist, Allez Raconte, A Cat in Paris (Line Vie de Chat), Arthur 3: Lo
Guerre des Deux Mondes and Santa's Apprentice in 2010, the country is continuing its hot streak with titles such as Titeuf Le Film, The Rabbi's Cat (Le
Chat du Rabbin), The Prodigies, Les Contes de la Nuit, Un Monstre h Paris, The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart and Cinderella 3-D.
Although many of these titles may not get the worldwide publicity and attention of the latest studio offerings from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks, each one
of them offers inspiring new ways of telling stories and experiments with the possibilities of the medium in ways that we rarely see in Hollywood blockbusters.

I4,11flo Opormfvc:
years ago. While Gagnol joined the
studio to work as an animator, he
wasn't quite happy with his own
drawings and wanted to partner
with someone who could deliver
original designs. Felicioli, in turn, was
looking for a writer, so life at the
studio worked out perfectly for the
two friends.
One of the qualities that sets A
Cat in Parisapart from the onslaught
of similar-looking CG-animated fea-
tures opening at the box office each
week is the fact that the story is told
in classic 2D animation, and that's
something Gagnol is quite proud
of. "The 2D animation fits our style
perfectly," he notes. "Anyway, we
need to be different from the oth-
er movies which are mostly made
with computers. And, to be honest,
for us, the easiest way to make our
films is hand-drawn animation be-
ect centers on a Parisian cat that gangsters and cops, presented in a cause that's how we've always done
The Double is part of a secret ring of thieves at quite realistic atmosphere:' he adds. our shorter projects:"
Life of a night. Writer/director Alain Gagnol "For instance, our cat is a real cat, Gagnol, whose next project is
Parisian Cat tells us that the inspiration for the he can't talk." Phantom Boy, a detective tale about
movie came from his own person- The hand-drawn animation took a boy with superpowers who helps
Take, for example, the 2D ani- al experience."From my window, I about nine months to execute. a wheelchair-bound policeman
mated feature A Cat in Paris (tine can see the roofs of the buildings in "We only used computers for the battle a mob boss, says the popu-
Vie de Chat), which was released last my neighborhood:' he says. "There coloring part:' notes the director larity of comic books in France has
year in France and is just beginning are a lot of cats that wander out "Even the lights on the characters helped bolster the animation in-
its run in festivals and select theaters there all night long, and I couldn't are hand-drawn as well, which was dustry. "Many of the comic books
around the world. Directed by Jean- help wondering where they were a huge amount of work. I have been are best sellers and a portion of
Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, this going and where they come working with Jean-Loup for a long the audience is used to appreciat-
charming tale is tailor-made for dis- from.. .that was the beginning of time, but we only made shorts be- ing many different kinds of drawing
ceming family audiences. Produced the story!" fore. I wrote the scripts, Jean-Loup styles," says the director who counts
by Folimage, the film is distributed Gagnol began the script in 2004 is the art designer, and we both himself as a fan of Satoshi Kon and
by Gebeka Films in France, Film Dis- and it took about two and a half directed all the movies. The chal- Pixar movies. "I think that's one of
tribution (worldwide) and GKids (in years to finish it.The film, which cost lenge was to be able to work with a the reasons why French animated
the U.S.) and co-produced by Lu- about 4.5 million euros ($6.6 mil- big team! We had to be very careful movies are very different from each
nanime, Lumiere, Digit Anima and lion), began production in 2007 and about the style." other We also have the tradition of
Rh6ne-Alpes Cinema. wrapped in four years. "We wanted Gagnol and Felicioli began their the films by auteurs, for better or
The beautifully animated proj- to make a film noir for children, with partnership at Folimage about 15 for worse."

12 www.animationmagazine.net jun 11
Out of Africa

A very different kind of cat is the

center of another animated movie
coming to French theaters in June.
Based on a popular graphic novel by
Joann Sfar, The Rabbi's Cat is set in Al-
geria in the 1930s and is directed by
Antoine Delesvaux and Sfar himself
Continuing the country's tradition of
artistic, traditionally animated proj-
ects, the movie centers on a cat who
decides to practice Judaism after he
swallows a parrot and learns how to
Delesvaux, a longtime fan of Sfar's
comics, and his team at Banjo Studio
in Paris began work on the project in
2008. He says it was obvious that this
colorful tale about a cat who learns
how to speak in Africa during the
'30s seemed to lend itself very well
to animation. "I had been a hug fan
of Joann's work even before meeting
him in person," says the producer-
director "We decided to collaborate
with Clement Oubrerie through our
company Autochenille Productions
and Banjo Studio to adapt the comic
books as an animated feature."
Working with a budget of less than
10 million euros ($12.7 million), De-
lesvaux and his company were keen
on staying true to the film's graphic
roots, "Joann works with pen and ink
and we used the same traditional
tools in our studio and got great re-
sults. The animators worked closely
with the actors to depict realistic
movements for the characters. You
can really see the evolution of Joann's
design on the screen. The coloring
process was also very complicated
because the backgrounds required
special individual lighting treatment."
The director, who names Miyazaki,
Brad Bird and Disney's Nine Old Men
as some of his influences, says that
he's happy to see the boundaries be-
tween animation and live-action films
disappear in recent years. "We are
seeing the growth of an industry that
has too often been put aside in the
past," he notes,"There is a rich abun-
dance of exciting ideas and talent in
the French animation sector and we
are experiencing growth in all areas Finding Religion: After swallowing a parrot, a cat finds himself able to communicate with human beings and decides to
of animation lately" become a practicing Jew in Banjo Studio's adaptation of Joann Sfar's graphic novel The Rabbi's Cat.

jun 11 www.anlmationmagazine.net 13
nard Lenteric, The Prodigies. I learned to control it as Igrew up. So I "You have to create a specific style in
Produced by Onyx Films, thought the author chose an interesting this world. If you try and be realistic,
Fidl6it6 Films, Luxanimation, way of exploring this subject." the human eye can detect the illusion.
Scope Pictures and Studio Relying on his expertise in video- Your designs can't be too close to real-
37, the film will be released games, Charreyron and his team cre- ity.That's why you accept the tall blue
in France by Warner Bros. ated the world of The Prodigies by using aliens in Avatar You feel the emotions
on June 8.The animation was a combination of motion-capture tech- of the characters. For The Prodigies, we
handled by DQ Entertain- nology (Vicon) and key-frame anima- relied on the amazing work of Marvel
ment (India) and Attitude tion. Working with a budget that was artist Humberto Ramos, who created
and Norman studios. The reportedly between $16 and $20 mil- these angular designs for the charac-
fantasy centers on five young lion, the facial animation was created by ters, which are far from realistic."
people with special powers the usual method of putting markers on Like many of his compatriots, the di-
who band together to plan actors' faces, but for larger sequences, rector of The Prodigies is excited about
their revenge after they're especially for the scene in which New the doors that new technologies and vi-
assaulted by dark forces in York is destroyed, key-frame and CG sionaries like James Cameron and Zack
NewYork's Central Park. technologies were employed. Snyder have opened in recent years. "I
Charreyron, who began "My first job out of school was as a think animation is ready to tackle top-
his career working on video- key-frame animator, and I like to use dif- ics beyond cartoony animals," he offers.
games such as Tomb Raider ferent technologies together," says the "Pixar and DreamWorks have done
VI,Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 34-year-old director "Ithink the most amazing work in the family feature
Angtry Toons and Alphanim's TV series Galactik Foot- important thing to remember in a proj- arena, but I think audiences are ready
In Central Park boll says he was naturally drawn to the ect like this is connecting with the feel- to embrace CG-animated action mov-
movie because if its powerful subject ings and emotions of the characters." ies or science fiction fantasies. Here in
In addition to traditional 2D and CG matter"For me, the novel was quite fas- When asked about some of the France, we are fortunate to have artis-
features, French auteurs are also experi- cinating because it really focuses on the negative reception motion-capture tic control over our movies, so we can
menting with motion-capture technol- anger that you have as a teenager, which films have received in recent years, push the envelope a bit farther Our ani-
ogy to deliver projects aimed at older you lose when you grow up," says Char- Charreyron points out that there are mated features have more in common
audiences.A perfect example is director reyron. "Iwas the same way-when I certain rules that artists have to re- with indie art pictures in the U.S., so we
Antoine Charreyron's upcoming adap- was younger, I had an amazing amount spect in the world of mo-cap. "Look are able to exercise more freedom in
tation of the bestselling book by Ber- of anger and I was quite aggressive, but at Avatar, for example," he explains. our projects."

14 www.animationmagazine.net jun 11

Title: A Superbe Year for French Animation

Source: Anim Mag 25 no4 Je 2011 p. 12-14

ISSN: 1041-617X
Publisher: Animation Magazine
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