A Handy Tale
Marc du Pontavice and his team at Xilam prepare a new animated feature titled I Lost My Body. by Ramin Zahed
Marc du Pontavice and his team at Xilam prepare a new animated pic titled I Lost My Body. by Ramin Zahed
How do you follow up the madcap antics of Oggy and the Cockroaches? If you’re acclaimed French producer Marc du Pontavice, you tell the twisted tale of an amputated hand that goes on a quest to reunite with its body (which incidentally belongs to a young lovestruck Moroccan immigrant)!
Based on Guillaume Laurant’s novel Happy Hand, the fantasy-filled movie will be directed by Jérémy Clapin, who is best known for acclaimed shorts such as Skhizein (2008) and Palmipedarium (2012). French cinema fans may recognize Laurant as a frequent JeanPierre Jeunet collaborator, who penned the scripts for Amelie, A Very Long Engagement and The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.
“As I was working on a live-action film with the highly regarded French screenwriter, Guillaume Laurent, he mentioned a novel he had written called Happy Hand,” recalls the accomplished producer. “As soon as I read the book, I fell in love with the idea of making a hand the hero of an animated film.”
Du Pontavice says he loved the fact that the book completely reverses the concept of the brain driving each part of the body. “In animation, you’ve often seen a character suddenly driven by a part of its body. But it was mainly a comedic conceit. Here it is what drives the story and each piece of the body has its own consciousness. Moreover, Rosalie (that’s the name of the hand) strongly believes that she has a fate, and being reunited with her body will fulfill her destiny.”
Described as a grown-up tale, which is simultaneously epic, romantic, absurd and poetic, the movie has an estimated budget of a little under $10 million. The plans are to mix CG animation with hand-drawn renderings, as well as rotoscopic tools for reference to animate the human characters. “It will be a challenge for the animators as we will have to build character into a hand, something that has neither eyes nor a mouth,” du Pontavice says. “Secondly, the story will be partially told from the POV of Rosalie, the hand. And that will be fun to storyboard.”
Du Pontavice, who founded the Xilam production company in 1990 (originally named Gaumont Multimedia), has been a fixture of the global animation scene in both the small-screen and features arenas. With studios in both France and Vietnam, the company employs about 250 artists. Among the shop’s many TV hits over the years are The New Adventures of Lucky Luke, Oggy and the Cockroaches, Rantanplan, Shuriken School, Zig and Sharko and The Daltons. Xilam has been a driving force in the feature animation scene as well, with releases such as Kaena: The Prophecy, Stupid Invaders, Lucky Luke: Go West and Oggy and the Cockroaches: The Movie, which is showcased at the Cartoon Movie event in France in March.
“It’s quite exciting for us to do both TV series and movies,” says du Pontavice. “We’re not hiring different artists, as we believe that our talents can be strong in both worlds. About 80 percent of our artists have worked on both TV and feature productions at our studio.”
The producer, who is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s recent feature The Wind Rises and Craig McCracken’s animated TV series Wander Over Yonder, believes that family entertainment is stronger than ever in his home country. However, he also acknowledges that it’s more difficult than ever to produce animated features that are not made for family audiences, even in France. Xilam’s I Lost My Body ( J’ai perdu mon coeur) is aiming for a summer 2016 release date. For more info, visit www. xilam.com.