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CARTOON 2024 Cartoon Next

Arthur Delabays, Nicolas Athané and Gabrielle d’Andrimont talk about their work for Bobbypills at Cartoon Next

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- In just a few years, the first European studio wholly devoted to adult-orientated animation has made the leap from indie to mainstream, while sticking to its core values

Arthur Delabays, Nicolas Athané and Gabrielle d’Andrimont talk about their work for Bobbypills at Cartoon Next
l-r: Arthur Delabays, Gabrielle d'Andrimont and Nicolas Athané during the talk (© Cartoon)

On day 2 of Marseille’s Cartoon Next (9-11 April), Arthur Delabays, Nicolas Athané and Gabrielle d’Andrimont were invited on stage to present their work for Paris-based Bobbypills, the first European studio entirely dedicated to adult-orientated animation. The session was moderated by Lisette Looman.

Bobbypills, founded by David Alric, was built around artists like Athané, who worked for too long in the children’s animation industry, felt “censored” and trapped by its creative cages, and finally ended up yearning to focus on “more mature stories”, explained Delabays.

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The studio’s mission is “to give a voice to the talents who will shape tomorrow’s pop culture”, he said, adding that it grew rapidly and welcomed a bigger, more experienced workforce, which “helped artists to create the best version of their shows”.

Bobbypills’ core values are boldness, sincerity and high standards. On the topic of boldness, Delabays said that “courage is mandatory” when it comes “to supporting the artists’ unique points of view on the world”. Sincerity implies that “edgy, gratuitous, trashy or irrelevant content can exist as long as it comes with very sincere, authentic messages”. Nevertheless, the team always makes sure that “even the dumbest ideas are well executed”.

Later, Athané spoke about the company’s shift from indie to mainstream. He joked how, at first, they had “no money, no experience, no people and no food. […] From very homemade productions, we moved on to big international partnerships with Ubisoft, Netflix and Warner. The idea [at the core] is still the same for us: stories first, and stories made together,” he said.

Initially, Bobbypills involved the whole team in the writers’ room, and that, surprisingly, emerged as “an organic way of working”. Athané described it as a collective storytelling process similar to that of a workshop, but also admitted how unpredictable and hard to replicate it was for bigger productions.

For example, when working on Warner’s Creature Commandos, the team had to stick to the script penned by James Gunn. To deliver their creative input, the Bobbypills team divided each episode into different parts and assigned them to four or five storyboard artists, splitting the tasks depending on everyone’s unique skills and sensitivities. “That way, we kept the idea of teamwork but in a more industrial fashion,” Athané summed up.

Next, d’Andrimont touched upon the studio’s global development strategies and its internal writing process. Bobbypills aims to source projects that can “ensure quality and viability”, while “writing remains at the basis of everything. […] If the writing isn’t solid enough, you can have the best design and animation in the world, but it won’t work in the end,” she underscored.

The studio follows “the typical development timeline” but does something different. Before working on the story’s bible, pilot, script and animatic, the team goes up to “the first step of the ladder”, called the “nucleus”. In it, the authors and the director focus solely on the concept of the series, aiming to deliver a mini-bible, a dialogue scene and a first animatic in the space of up to one month and a half. “This space is essential for us; it’s like a Bobbypills creative lab where ideas are refined and tested to ensure that only the most promising projects go to the next stage.”

Delabays revealed that the studio works on three types of projects: AAAs are normally big projects for international streamers, often boasting “a more realistic, ambitious style”; AAs require either “more time and less money” or “more money and less time”; and As are low-budget, challenging projects, often short-form series like Vermin and Peepoodo, helmed by “genius creators and directors”.

The team also spoke about the making of the second season of Peepoodo, billed as “an educational show aiming to explore sexuality in all its glory”, in a positive fashion and with no prejudices, while delivering a wider “message of tolerance”.

“After releasing season 1, our funders asked us to work on season 2, and we tried to sell it to big streamers, […] but nobody was bold enough to pay for it. We launched a Kickstarter campaign and decided to broadcast it ourselves on our website,” said Delabays.

The campaign helped the team raise €500,000, gifted by some 8,000 backers from 50 different countries. The funds helped the team deliver eight more episodes and made them realise how “connecting with the audience can really make a difference”.

Bobbypills’ growing slate of productions includes the series Dead Cells, two brand-new female-led shows, the sitcom Down to Earth and the studio’s first feature, Jim Queen, helmed by Athané himself.

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