Monday, August 19, 2013

Frenchified Animation

Two blockbusters makes a trend.

French animators are enjoying global success. ... Made not in Hollywood but in Paris's 15th arrondissement by the Illumination Mac Guff studio, "Despicable Me 2" ... has taken nearly $700 million at the box office on a budget of $76 million since its release in June.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in July that the feature was "going to end up being the single most profitable film in the 100 year history of Universal Studios".

... The success of this "made-in-France" animation goes back to the 1980s.

Veillon, like Mac Guff founder Jacques Bled, cites a 1982 initiative by the Ministry of Culture to develop the animation industry through the National Centre for Cinema.

Combined with the first 3D software, it paved the way for a whole generation of animation professionals.

Work generated by the main terrestrial television channels then created an environment in which the firms flourished, added Veillon.

Marc du Pontavice ... attributes Paris's strength in animation to its centuries-old link to painting and later illustration and cartoons.

He said the training young animators received in Paris was the envy of the world with some 500 student graduating each year, many of whom attracted the attention of big US studios.

Producer Janet Healy, one of Illumination's first employees, said the firm scoured the world to find the right studio for "Despicable Me 2".

"We went to Canada, New Zealand, Australia," she said before Illumination head Christopher Meledandri met Mac Gruff founder Bled.

Making films in France was "no cheaper (than other countries) if you look at it dollar to dollar," she said.

But after seeing Mac Guff's "Dragon Hunters", Meledandri finally chose the studio, she added. ...

Well, there was also those zesty French film subsidies. Those certainly didn't hurt.

France isn't a low-wage country, not by a long shot. But it has some of the same things California possesses: Innovation, focused training, and a skilled talent pool. And France has one ingredient that the west coast lacks, a generous wage subsidy that takes away the sing of working in a higher cost environment. Mr. Meleandri cheerfully admits this is one of the continuing attractions of having a Paris studio.

When (and if) the golden state enacts a robust kickback for our fine,entertainment conglomerates to chew on, perhaps Mr. Meledandri will flirt with the idea of setting up an L.A. Studio*, yes?

* To be fair, Illumination Entertainment's partially-animated "Hop" was produced in Los Angeles at the Rhythm and Hues studio. But R & H is gone, and so is Mr. Meledandri's plans to use a cartoon facility in L.A. More's the pity.


Christopher Sobieniak said...

I remember the days of Mac Guff's earliest pieces of CG that saw a release in the US on VHS called "Life of Animals".

Steve Hulett said...

They moved on to bigger, more lucrative projects, yes?

Christopher Sobieniak said...

They did. It's interesting noticing that progression.

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