“All the characters have evolved with respect to the series”
by Dimitra Bouras et Marceau Verhaeghe
11/06/2009 - In the Dantean setting of an old factory where film backdrops, assorted equipment and cardboard boxes containing hundreds of figurines are piled up haphazardly, we met with Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar. They spoke to Cinergie about their impressive work on this 75-minute animated film that took them to the Cannes red carpet and the intense pleasure they experienced filming the slightly mad and surrealist A Town Called Panic [trailer, film focus] in cinemascope.
Cinergie: To begin with, A Town Called Panic was a series of short episodes. What made you decide to make a feature from it?
Stéphane Aubier: We were very pleased with the series. We decided to try to make a feature after discussing it with producer Vincent Tavier and our co-screenwriter Guillaume Malandrin.
Vincent Patar: We didn’t really want to start developing a second series, but rather change the writing process, so as to tell stories. At first, we weren’t sure whether an animation as makeshift and simple as A Town Called Panic would work with a longer story. But right from the outset, we wanted to avoid making a film composed of sketches.
S.A.: When we’d created the story-board, photographed all the images and added the voices to make a model, we felt somewhat reassured. We had the story, even though it kept changing.
How did you choose the characters’ voices?
S.A.: Right from the pilot series, we wanted a high-pitched voice for Cowboy, because it’s me who does it. In contrast, for Horse, we needed a deep and gruff voice like Vincent is capable of. For Indian, we were undecided. We opted for a highly nervous voice, and PPZ30’s singer, Bruce Ellison, sprang to mind.
The other characters emerged as we went along. Benoît Poelvoorde had already worked with us. We could have given him any character. He ended up as the little farmer, and it’s wonderful. Much the same can be said of Bouli Lanners. He gave incredible life to all the secondary characters. We discovered the talent of Liège-born David Ricci who does the voiceover for the donkey and has a very deep voice which worked really well; and Jeanne Balibar who brings an extra something to the film.
There was an enormous amount of technical work involved. Everything was done by hand. How many people were there in your team?
V.P.: There were around 20 people, and production lasted 14 months. This is quite short for an animated film. The technique for A Town Called Panic is simple. In the series, Horse had three positions. He galloped all the time. In the film, we couldn’t make him gallop for an hour and a half, so we developed eight different positions to give him a slower trot movement. The animation is simple. We work with plastic toys and the aim is to bring these little, inflexible figurines to life.
How many figurines did you have to use?
V.P.: For the film, we made a total of 1,500 figurines. Horse is the character who required the most, for he had many different positions…we used perhaps 130 or 140 figurines. For Cowboy and Indian, we used around 100 each. On the other hand, Policeman has four or five different positions because he’s stiff and doesn’t move… he’s a policeman.
In your very masculine world, a new character brings a touch of romance: Madame Longrée, Horse’s girlfriend. She makes the character more human.
S.A.: It seemed obvious to us that we needed this, precisely to differentiate the film from the series.
V.P.: It’s a way of developing Horse’s character. He’s no longer merely a foil to Cowboy and Indian, he has his own life. And all the characters have evolved with respect to the series.
Can we expect a sequel to A Town Called Panic any time soon?
S.A. and V.P.: We’ll see how the first one fares for now.