Iron Giants, Green giants, Godzillas, King Kongs, the Stay Puft … sometimes mean & nasty, sometimes weak & tender. All cultures’ mythologies & legends include at least one of them. Jack and the Beanstalk used to make us believe they were stupid & violent monstrosities, and when being kids we thought they would come & eat us… ‘coss that’s what they do… eat humans, and baby’s flesh is the tastiest.
Although others like Roald Dahl used to portrait them more like some sort of intelligent & friendly creatures. In any case they’ve always been an appendix of humanity, a representation of our most obscure secrets & vices, but also of our wishes & virtues.
And as such CélineYann / YannCéline started a tribute to this folkloric figure half a year ago putting into practice their more than 3 years of experience in the animation world.
(by now you should know about Passion pictures… god knows how many times we’ve posted their works here…one of our favorite production & animation studios behind many Gorillaz videos or some of the latest viral ads & videos in the industry: Sony’s play doh rabbits, Beatle’s Rock band cinematics …)
Today we’re happy to welcome them & talk about their Giant series…. amongst other many other things….
aqnb: Let’s start with a quick game which used to be on the Spanish TV prime-time many years ago… the “1,2,3 answer again”. In 30 seconds name as many Giants as you can, like for example the Iron Giant from Brad Bird’s 99 film, 1,2,3, answer again…
YC: Gargantua, Godzilla, Anaconda, King Kong, Cyclops.
Before entering into the world of Giants: The personalities: Celine & Yann
C: We got to know each other while studying together @Supinfocom. Once I finished I came directly here (London) and started working as a graphist freelance in several studios (Picasso Pictures, Aardman, Framestore, Cartoon Network) and mainly for Passion Pictures. Yann on the other had worked @ Chez Eddy for 6 months also as a graphic designer.
Y: Yep, I worked in France at Chez Eddy and Mathematic, then I decided to come to London too where I’ve mainly worked with Passion for over a year even though we mainly remain as freelance illustrators. The fact that we’re completely new in town hasn’t made it easy neither. We started from 0, getting to know the correct people, studios… etc
C: We also have our own pauses were we’ve worked mainly on our own projects
aqnb: You both have a fairly similar background: Supinfocom, Chez Eddy & Finally @ Passion Pictures: When is the CelinneYann duo idea born, and why precisely a duo when in the animation world usually everyone fights for themselves?
Y: It all started with a character design for a pitch for a WWF ad @ Wyldstallyons. They decided to go for this design, and I had to do the commercial, but it was so much work in such a short notice, so I’ve asked Celine to help me out on this. The studio was quite small, so we were lucky enough to be trusted as an artistic duo and managed to make the entire production the way we wanted. This was the first & most professional project we initiated together and it worked out very smoothly. We realized that we could work together complementing each other without getting on each other’s nerves.
C: As we had studied together we kind of knew how we behaved & worked, we did trust each other at this stage. On the WWF ad we ended up coming up with something that resembled more of a short movie than a traditional ad, we had quite a lot of freedom for its development.
Y: The thing I’ve really liked from working as a duo is that we don’t have the same aesthetic tastes & backgrounds therefore we tend to contribute mutually and enrich each other. Obviously working as a duo or with more people usually develops ideas further and brings personal barriers down.
C: Then we also worked together on the “Chaussetologie” project which was part of an ecological contest. This project was the first one we made together from scratch.
aqnb: As we were saying: Both studied at Supinfocom: one of the most well known Animation schools in France, and if you enter Vimeo for example you realise loads of videos that you see weekly come from Les Gobelins, Supfinfocom… is the name of the school as important as the talent: has Supinfocom opened yourselves many doors?
C: Well, for example to come to London it was thanks to our school. The studios (Passion, Cartoon Network…) they’re interested and do come to our school looking for talent, professionals & students have the possibility to discuss with each others. There are always initiatives and common actions between both and it’s a win-win relationship.
Y: The history of the school is also decisive. The studios generally wait for the end-of-year graduation films, all big studios are willing to find those good films from talented students. The name is definitely decisive and I did notice that as I come initially from a public university and the market wasn’t as open to me as I thought it would be.
aqnb: how hard is it to succeed in the animation world knowing that many (or most) of these students end up producing films for gaming studios, visual effect studios or music videos? Is everyone willing to become a director?
C: That really depends on graduation years, some people want to become a creative and other ones a director.
Y: Maybe students were not thinking to become directors a few years ago as much as nowadays. We can see now more and more former Supinfo student who managed to direct projects, and so this can push you to give it at try.
aqnb: and for you personally… what’s the hardest bit in the animation world to develop your career? find the means, the money or the good ideas?
Y: I think the hardest part personally for me is being able to live well, keep some good living standards & still find the time to be creative at the same time.
C: Or for example find enough time to think about & dedicate yourself entirely to your work . There’s been a couple of times we’ve done the pitch for an ad and we were not personally satisfied because we had to go extremely fast and you obviously don’t have enough time to do something intelligent or as you’d like to.
Y: The timeframes are always very short, the always increase their demands and then keep reducing the roadmap. Many times we’re not even paid to do this, which is not part of our job and we have to combine it with our daily routine finding ourselves working extra hours many evenings and weekends.
In the end you come to realize that to succeed you need the good idea, make the customer like you and succeed when showing this idea.
aqnb: What’s CY’s favorite animation style and why? Either as a creator or as a filmgoer…
C: I think that in the beginning as it happens with many other things, you discover 2D animation and you love it, then 3D and it happens the same, right now I might feel more attracted for things that seem more “organic” to me…. I don’t know if you’ve seen “Old Fangs” by Adrien Merigeau, the same guy who did the backgrounds for “The book of Kells”; that is one of the best works I’ve seen in a while. I can see it repeatedly and will always discover something new in it. It’s not really only 2D, it’s a mix of everything…. also mixing watercolors or real-life footage.
I see a blockbuster today and I really think the animation is great, (take Shrek for ex.) but I don’t get to feel the same as watching Old Fangs. Sometimes I think these blockbusters are “too much” for me to absorb.
We’ve grown watching mainly Disney or Asterix & Obelix and when we were kids we thought it was magical, now we watch it again and we might laugh but when paying close attention to the animation you think “oh well, not that great”.
aqnb: You’ve been around half a year at PP … What is the studio providing you with? what have u been involved up to now & the most exciting project you’ve done (or you’re about to do?)
Y: As a graphic designer what’s really interesting is all we’re learning about other director’s projects. Many of the things we learn not purely related to our role we will use them for our own future projects. We’ve also learned a lot about how things work with final customers, how to manage & deal with them, things you don’t get at school. There’s also one of the producers who really believes in us and tries to develop our potential inside Passion. We’ve been really lucky about that and at the same time it has allowed us to do something else beyond the “graphic designer” role.
We were quite concerned (because Passion is quite big) that our profiles wouldn’t quite fit, we have a rather minimalistic profile as graphic designers; and Passion is very focused on visual effects, very elaborated advertising…. but it seems we have. At the same time for example for our Giants series & personal projects they’ve even let us use their workspace and materials whenever we had a need and during our own free time. They’ve really helped us a lot with this.
aqnb: To finish this first set of questions…. your favorite animation piece… and a recent favorite artist?
C: As I was saying before the latest piece it’s really shocked me was Old Fangs and I would mention Raymond Depardon (French Photographer) and Manu Larcenet (comic Auhtor).
Y: Me personally I would go for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Then I have to admit I really love “Tom Gauld”, very minimalist and with a very sharp sense of humor.
Let’s talk about Giants:
aqnb: Why the Giant subject? representation of nature?
Y: To tell the truth, I wouldn’t really be able to tell you where the idea comes from. A classmate made me an observation about how the Giants have always been perceived as dangerous creatures even though human beings many times understand they’re naive & harmless. I designed an illustration a couple of years ago precisely with a giant and tiny humans and I really liked playing with proportions, then I decided to turn the traditional conception upside-down and say, no, the monsters are us.
An insignificant human being can actually confuse and disturb those giants who seem to be so powerful & wise, make them feel bad while we stay cold and implacable. There is no real message behind these shorts, like trying to be eco-friendly or something but then many people have commented on this aspect.
There’s this series called Usavich about a couple of rabbits inside a Russian prison and it’s a rather awkward series. I saw a first episode and I didn’t quite get to understand it or find it funny. But the more you watch the series the better you understand the mechanism of the story, the viewer is challenged and the series play with what this one is expecting to see.
For “Giants” (which was initially conceived as a series) I liked the idea of playing with the preconceived ideas of the viewer. The comic resides in the repetition of the episode: we all know that the end is going to be bad for the giants, but the question is how. I enjoy planning the key element that will change the situation, the problematic figure. And eventually the idea is to even use contradictions with what the viewer has already assimilated, although for now we’ve only developed 2 episodes and still don’t know how this will evolve.
aqnb: What are the darkest secrets of a Giant? and if they have none, those of the human being?
YC: Giants are said to be impressive creatures and very dangerous while humans are afraid and run away from them. Through each episode, we’ll discover more about the hidden truth. As a matter of fact, Giants are sensitive, clumsy, attentive, compassionate, and even quite human sometimes. In fact, they are the victims of misunderstanding which makes them appear as monsters, but it’s not really because of them, the human are here to be the trigger. At the end of the episode, we realize that humans are violent and grasping, and they drive the giants crazy.
Despite the attempts of the Giant, the relation with the humans seems really difficult and end up as a conflict most of the time.
The series is based from the point of view of the giants, and it allows us to understand them, discover the truth, the untold story and why Giants don’t have to be that bad. The scale will always be the same : a Giant interacting with humans, who are insignificant, just small triangles around him. But their will make the Giant’s life very difficult .
aqnb: Will there be nasty giants in your upcoming episodes?
C: For now we’ve only thought of one….
Y: But precisely we want to keep playing with that idea & image of the Giant as a victim, who are had by human beings and want to keep the mystery about their reactions given their wild nature…. maybe they’re not all kindness…. and we don’t even know how they would react towards another giant…. they have different values in the end.
aqnb: How is the funding going for the future Giant episodes?
CY: Actually we presented a dossier to a couple of French & UK TV channels and we’re waiting for feedback.
The dossier we presented included a brief of 52 episodes as it was a year-on-year project, we hadn’t written them all of course, but we already started a bunch of them. But we’re not waiting for funding to keep on doing the projects, because we’re motivated, although it would be terrific to get some funding at one point to be able to keep the episodes going. We have some plans about the Giant project: a small game for the iPhone a website and a new episode which are supposed to come out soon.
Coming back to you:
aqnb: Passion Pictures is more about documentaries & films than animation…. would you like to jump, mix & experience other artistic subjects…. documentaries, short films…?
Y: It’s a rather delicate matter as I find it could be highly interesting but I’m not very sure about moving to another discipline yet. But it’s true that we’re really willing to open our range and mix our animations with live action stuff. We don’t want to be only doing 3D animation. But we’re more into fiction story right now.
aqnb: Future projects: what are you working on right now, what do you have in mind for the next few months? Next Giants episode?
C: For our next spare time…. Right now we have a couple of projects on-going. A Music Video, and the third episode of the Giant.
Y: For next March. We have no obligation whatsoever but I’d love to keep up a work routine rather than stopping for long periods before attacking the next episode. We have the problem of choosing who will be our next Giant…
C: There’s are several episodes already written and one in particular that unfortunately we can’t develop straight away as we have to educate the viewer first to learn the code…. human beings are represented by triangles… and so on. In this episode the viewer may be challenged on what he thinks he’s learned and he believes is happening.
aqnb: and to wrap-up…. do you know where Giants hide?
Y: I would say…. in the most evident places, everyday places…
C: And the best is that you don’t get to see them.
aqnb: thank you for your time guys, keep tricking us about our Giant preconceptions.