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Cartoon 2022 – Cartoon Springboard

Dossier industrie: Animation

À Cartoon Springboard, Louis Jacobée envisage "l’adaptation comme une (re)création”

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Son allocution a présenté quatre études de cas sur des adaptations de livres ou de BD : Lastman, Pyjamasques, Toby Alone et In the Dark and Mysterious Forest

À Cartoon Springboard, Louis Jacobée envisage "l’adaptation comme une (re)création”
Louis Jacobée pendant son allocution (© Cartoon)

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

On 26 October, Madrid’s Cartoon Springboard hosted a keynote speech by Louis Jacobée, film and TV rights manager at Éditions Gallimard, a subsidiary of Groupe Madrigall and France’s third-largest publishing group. His contribution, titled “Adaptation as a (re)creation: Four Different Ways for a Book to Get Animated”, focused on four case studies: the 2D 26x13-minute series Lastman, the 3D 52x12-minute series PJ Masks, the 2D 13x52-minute series Toby Alone and the feature In the Dark and Mysterious Forest.

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“Why talk about adaptation? [...] The majority of European animation shows are adaptations, and they represent half of the animated TV programmes broadcast in France. As an animation screenwriter or graphic designer, you could be the author of an adaptation,” Jacobée explained. He pointed out how there is sometimes “a temptation to write a book first, in order to adapt it as a film or TV series”, which is basically like disguising an original as an adaptation. He asked the audience: “But does it make sense to write the book before? Is that a step or a detour?”

Jacobée argues that it is “a creative step”, since it requires fewer people to be convinced to bring your story/concept to where you really want it, it’s cheap to write because you are free to invent as many characters and backgrounds as you want, it improves your concept/story by giving it a “complete form”, and you can get feedback from readers. But he added that it is “a strategic step”, as you can cater to an audience or a community for the film or the TV series, meet producers with the publisher backing you “as an ally” and ensure you will remain the key creative of your project. “It’s also a long – albeit exciting – creative detour,” he concluded.

Next, Jacobée focused on Lastman, based on a French manga series made up of 12 volumes, published by Casterman from 2013-2019. In this case, one of the manga authors, Balak, worked on the script of the series together with the other screenwriters in order to guarantee consistency and coherence. Among the obstacles the team had to face were the absence of previous case studies for adult animation on TV, since Lastman played a sort of “pioneering role”, the lack of a French shōnen audience, and the presence of professionals with almost no experience in animation. The book happened to be a strategic step, but it wasn’t written to be adapted, and it wasn’t meant as a shortcut for the writing of the series.

Based on a two-volume fantasy novel penned by Timothée de Fombelle and published between 2006 and 2007, Toby Alone required the creation of “whole graphic universe to turn it from a tween novel into a 12-hour animated saga”. By 2016, the 600-page book had been translated into 29 languages and had sold over 400,000 copies. The main obstacles when it came to adapting it were the unusual format for the writing of a series, the book’s 10+ target audience being too old for animation, and its complex universe, with verticality and scale issues only rendered in the book through a few black-and-white pictures and sparse descriptions. The writing room ended up rewriting it for a 7-9 audience, with de Fombelle supervising the different steps of the adaptation process.

In the case of PJ Masks, the team had “to push the concept from a children’s series of books to an action-superhero series”. The starting point was the idea that preschool superhero series were lacking on the market, thus representing a potential commercial opportunity. The main challenges were adapting short stories into a longer series format, working with 2D paintings on an action story and adapting the character design from the books to strike a chord with the desired target audience. During the writing process, the writing room decided to start each episode during the daytime and solve the protagonists’ daytime problems by night, whilst the original book series is set only at night time. The characters were made more “aspirational” for preschool kids from worldwide audiences. The creative team included several talented directors and screenwriters hired with Disney on board, who worked closely with Romuald Racioppo, PJ Masks’ creator.

Finally, speaking about In the Dark and Mysterious Forest, Jacobée described the process of transforming “a lush comic book into a CGI feature”. Among the challenges of adapting it for the big screen were its overly dark humour for the target audience and its story being structured into short chapters and loose units. Thus the writing team managed to give it some “narrative unity” by adding, for example, a recognisable antagonist, filling in the gaps left by the original book, and choosing to keep a mix of CGI and 2D sequences.

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