Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father: the mo-cap gamble
by Fabien Lemercier
- Pathé is releasing the 3D animated Franco-Italian-Belgian co-production by and starring Jamel Debbouze, the first French film to be shot with motion capture
While the CNC has published its calculations of attendance levels in French theatres for the first quarter (56.6 million admissions, up by 0.3% on the same period in 2014, despite a dramatic fall of 19.7% in March compared to the same month last year; a market share of 42.5% for French films, as against 45.5% for US productions and 12% for features from other countries), today sees an animated title hitting screens, a movie that has been a sizeable gamble for its producers: the 3D family entertainment film Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father [+see also:
film profile], directed by and starring the popular Jamel Debbouze.
Released by Pathé in over 660 theatres, this adaptation of the well-known novel by English author Roy Lewis delves into prehistoric times, following the misfortunes of the eldest son of the king of the simians, who has been rejected by his tribe because he is regarded as being too puny. He will thus grow up far away from the others, before going on to make a series of revolutionary discoveries (fire, hunting, the modern dwelling, love) that he hopes to share.
Made on a budget of €35 million, Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father stands out particularly because this is the first French animated film to have been made entirely with motion capture (mo-cap). According to Marc Miance, the line producer, “Prior to this, the technology had been used in two ways: with a great deal of success in the special effects employed in live-action films (The Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, Avatar); and, less successfully, in animated movies like The Polar Express and Beowulf, with Tintin still being the best experiment to date. Steven Spielberg’s film is magnificent, but the empathy generated with the characters still seems too limited to me, especially when you look at the faces. In this regard, I think we have passed an important milestone with Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father.”
In order to accomplish this, the shoot took place on a 10,000 m2 set with 150 m2 of surface area dedicated to the motion capture, which could host 15 actors at the same time and was surrounded by 70 cameras. “Eighty crew members were running this huge set that was built for this very purpose: it was the first of its kind in Europe! A data centre was set up nearby in order to record the enormous data feed from these 70 cameras that were all filming at the same time,” stresses Miance. Each actor was equipped with "a special suit, to which around 40 tracers were attached, dedicated to capturing their body movements. And then, when it came to the facial expressions, Alkymia devised a new helmet that was 100% French, dubbed ‘Thirdeye’, which weighed a mere 500 grams.”
Produced by Jérôme Seydoux and Romain Le Grand for Pathé (which is also selling the title internationally), and by Frédéric Fougea for Boréales, Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father also benefited from co-productions by Kissfilms, M6 Films, Belgian outfit Umedia and Italian company Cattleya, as well as pre-purchases by Canal+, Ciné+ and W9, and backing from the CNC (aid for new technologies), Stellar Mega Films and Ufund, among others. The post-production was carried out entirely at Prana Studios in Mumbai, India.
(Translated from French)