Saturday, February 12, 2011

The French Perspective

Animator-director Michel Ocelot gives his take on French and American animation.

... Q: You've broken records for French animated films at the box office. Did you expect such commercial success?

Ocelot: Before my commercial success, I had difficulty doing what I wanted, but my sincere short films always won prizes in festivals. So I was ready for larger successes, with bigger films as Kirikou. I was ready for a flop as well, but what came out was success. ...

Q: France is known for its competence in animation. Do you think it can compete with the Hollywood studios in terms of animation savoir-faire?

Ocelot: France can compete with the Hollywood studios in terms of animation savoir-faire, but not in terms of box-office figures. France is a small country, and the Americans are the masters of the world -- for cinema, it's true. People all over the world feed upon U.S. cinema and don't know about their own. I never seem to be able to sell my films correctly in the U.S. ...

The U.S. has dominated the universe of feature films for a looong time. D.W. Griffith put American live-action on top of the movie heap in the teens, and Walt Disney (and to a lesser degree the Fleischers) made American animation the predominant form in that sector during the 1930s.

But in the 21st century, new pretenders to the throne have pushed their way forward, and animation is no longer just a stateside sandbox. Mac Guff -- one of the preeminent animation studios in Paris -- has worked not only with Michel Ocelot, but last year scored a worldwide hit with Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me. And Animal Logic in Australia has created major animated features.

Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks might be globe-straddling giants, but they no longer have the world to themselves.


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