"The stop-motion revival is a global phenomenon"
Industry Report: Animation
Jean-François Le Corre • Producer, Vivement Lundi !
The head of the French company analyses the powerful comeback of stop-motion animation, to which Unifrance is dedicating a focus for the very first time within the Yokohama French Film Festival
The focus which Unifrance are dedicating to stop-motion animation "made in France" within the 30th Yokohama French Film Festival (running 1 – 4 December) will see Rennes-based firm Vivement Lundi! - steered by Jean-François Le Corre – placed centre stage. Indeed, the festival line-up notably includes several of their productions, namely No Dogs or Italians Allowed [+see also:
interview: Alain Ughetto
film profile] by Alain Ughetto and, in terms of short films, Mémorable by Bruno Collet (nominated for an Oscar in 2020) and Les Liaisons foireuses by Chloé Alliez and Violette Delvoye, which were either wholly or partially made by Vivement Lundi!’s studio Personne n’est Parfait! (directed by Mathieu Courtois), as was Les Filles du vent by Héloïse Ferlay (whose other short film on the agenda, À la mer poussière, is distributed by the self-same Vivement Lundi!).
We met with Jean-François Le Corre (whose recent works have included Yuku and the Himalayan Flower [+see also:
interview: Rémi Durin and Arnaud Demuy…
film profile] by Arnaud Demuynck and Rémi Durin, the series Dimitri, and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s multi-award-winning work Flee [+see also:
interview: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
film profile]) to discuss this out-and-out revival of stop-motion animation.
Cineuropa: Stop-motion is a very particular animation technique. What’s involved in terms of technical skills, production time, etc.?
Jean-François Le Corre: Even though stop-motion is an animation technique, producing a film with animated puppets is closer to a live action fiction film shot in a studio than a cartoon, but, just like digital animated films, everything has to be made, from the puppets themselves to the tiniest accessories. Stop-motion filming requires a director of photography, an art director and a substantial set design team, costume designers, various assistants, and significant digital post-production work. In the closing credits of a film like No Dogs or Italians Allowed by Alain Ughetto, we list a hundred or so artistic collaborators. One unique characteristic of the technique is the work we do with puppet animators who produce between 3 and 6 useful seconds of film per day per animator. It’s a physically demanding profession involving great precision, and stop-motion lead animators are still few and far between in Europe. Peter Lord, one of the creators of Aardman Studios, says that the beauty of stop-motion animation lies in the fact that on screen, you can feel the presence of the animator behind the puppet.
The importance of these teams and these very lengthy production and shooting times translates into high production costs, which force French producers to draft funding plans worth 8 to 12 million euros. European firms capable of such funding and production engineering feats are rare and they often work within the context of international co-productions.
Where is this revival of stop-motion animation "made in France" coming from?
The revival of stop-motion is a global phenomenon, and the stop-motion community can’t wait for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio to be screened, which is already creating a real buzz for stop-motion film. A dozen stop-motion feature films and series are in an advanced stage of development and/or production in Europe. I’ve been working with this technique for the past 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it!
We have a paradoxical relationship with stop-motion animation in France. We’ve forgotten that The Magic Roundabout, a cult series in the UK which allowed the BBC to develop its merchandising division from the end of the ‘60s, is an original French creation by Serge Danot. At the end of the ‘90s/beginning of the noughties, French broadcasters were telling us that stop-motion was dead and that computer-generated 3D technology would supersede everything else… at the very same time that Nick Park was creating Wallace and Gromit which would go on to win over millions of prime-time BBC viewers!
A handful of production companies in France (Vivement Lundi! and JPL Films in Rennes, Folimage in Valence…) kept up their expertise by producing short films and TV specials, and by training new talent. Then the French-Belgian series Dimitri (2014), created by Agnès Lecreux, arrived on our screens, followed by the Swiss-French feature film My Life As A Courgette [+see also:
interview: Claude Barras
film profile] by Claude Barras (2015), which lent greater visibility to stop-motion creations. In a certain sense, these works made stop-motion less nerdy in France. They also came at a time where we could feel a kind of creative slowdown of 3D CGI and demand from a certain segment of the audience for a less “dematerialised” and more tangible form of animated cinema. These productions helped us to regain confidence, helped teams to grow, and opened doors. Foliascope in Valence are now shooting the feature film The Inventor by America’s Jim Capobianco, we’re executively producing Sauvages (Claude Barras’ new film) on behalf of Nadasdy Film and Haut et Court, and No Dogs or Italians Allowed will be released in French cinemas on 25 January. And on the audiovisual side, France Télévisions have committed to develop the French-Japanese kids’ series Mogu & Perol (produced by Zephir and Dwarf Animation) which was pitched at the latest Cartoon Forum. In order to meet this demand, we’re going to need to train a new generation of technicians and speed up the transition towards eco-friendliness. The Ecole Européenne Supérieure d’Art in Brittany (EESAB) and Films en Bretagne, working in partnership with various Brittany-based studios, have just submitted their ambitious Génération Start Motion project to the CNC in response to its "France 2030 – The Great Film Factory" call for projects.
(Translated from French)
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