Industry Report: Animation
Zombillenium, a devilishly classy Halloween 2017 in perspective
by Claire La Combe
- In the context of the Annecy Film Festival’s Work-In-Progress sessions, Arthur de Pins, author of the comic book Zombillenium, alongside his producer Henri Magalon (Maybe Movies) and co-director Alexis Ducord, presented the first images from his hotly anticipated 3D film adaptation. The film is expected to be released in France in time for Halloween 2017.
Since the 2014 Cartoon Movie pitching event there has been very little information on Zombillenium and few images have been circulated. But it was worth the wait: the team presented a generous WIP which depicted, with modesty and humour, the film’s eventful journey from development to render tests - the stage that the production has now reached.
The first challenge for Arthur de Pins was to adapt his own comic series to create a brand new, original script. While Zombillenium is still an amusement park in the North of France, where real monsters make a living, at least three new characters are central to the plot of the film: Hector, a controller forcedly hired after discovering that the park is built on top of Hell; Lucie, his daughter, from whom he is taken away; and Steven, “the bad guy of the film,”: a hilarious caricature inspired by “a very famous sexy fashionable vampire,” acknowledged the director (i.e. Twilight). “The comic book is episode-based, so we needed to invent a main character with a true mission for the film – Hector was built, sequence by sequence, for the purposes of the plot. Every single facet of him has a meaning and he will even evolve physically during the film.”
The film is predominantly targeted at a young audience – “the first zombie movies for kids,” claimed the producer. “But he was careful to keep the two thematic strands of the original comic book: it is an adventure story about a father, transformed into a spooky but not too ugly monster, who wants to find his daughter; but it is also a story with a social dimension, featuring a park inhabited by real monsters which is facing financial difficulties. The two storylines merge when Hector comes to understand that saving the park is his only chance to see his daughter again.” A great deal of effort has already gone in to positioning and marketing the film. Gebeka Films will distribute the production in France, as well as co-producing it, and Urban Distribution has the international rights. A short original trailer was created for Cannes, in collaboration with the two directors, in the interests of both artistic research and sales. “We really used this trailer as an opportunity to do some research on the animation we wanted, the lighting, compositing and every rendering aspect which was still fuzzy in our minds,” explained Alexis Ducord.
The second challenge for the two directors derives from the fact that it is the first 3D feature film for both. “The 3D enables us to do a lot, and it really helps to bring the final film as close as possible to Arthur’s artistic vision…But between Maya, Arnold, RV (pronounced “Hervé” in French), Lambert and John we tend to get lost sometimes,” the co-director said half-jokingly. In fact, some sections of the film will be made in 2D, for artistic as well as budgetary reasons. A series of “fake” extra characters are being created by Arthur de Pins and will be animated in Flash. “We already have 130 3D characters, but I found that this was not enough for some specific sequences in the zombie dormitories or in the amusement park, which must be believable.” Certainly, the first integration tests to be shown on screen looked pretty stunning. The team spent a whole section of their presentation discussing the cuts and concessions that had to be made, although they appeared quite relaxed about it. “Henri is very thorough as a producer; we are happy with what we have,” said Arthur de Pins considerately, just after presenting a 2-minute animatic extract from “a sequence you will never see.” The final film will be 80 minutes long.
As for the original soundtrack, the French pop rock singer Mat Bastard (of the band Skip The Use), who has already collaborated with de Pins on the pilot of the film (which served as a clip for the single Nameless World), is even more engaged in the creation of the feature film. At least two songs have been composed exclusively for the project and the artist also plays the role of Sirius (the skeleton sidekick). “We really wanted to keep the rock spirit of Zombillenium,” said Arthur de Pins. “Thanks to the work of our story boarders, and the exclusive song composed by Mat, we managed to create a real concert sequence, which will be key to the plot; a sincere moment when vampires and zombies – the two opposite clans – become closer,” added Alexis Ducord. The sequence, which was screened in its animatic version, looks very promising indeed.
A whole, rendered and animated sequence was also screened at the very end of the presentation; again, this sequence looks quite classy, and rather ambitious in terms of lighting. De Pins and his team also took advantage of the occasion to present the work of the different studios involved in the project: 2 Minutes (France), Pipangai (France) and Dreamwall (Belgium). The film, which has a budget of 13.4 million euros, is a Franco-Belgian co production in partnership with Belvision-Dupuis. Also participating are Canal +, France 3 Cinema, OCS, Universal Pictures. The film is supported by French regional funds from Poitou-Charentes, La Reunion and Lorraine, as well as CNC and Eurimages.