A Handy Tale

Marc du Pon­tavice and his team at Xilam pre­pare a new an­i­mated fea­ture ti­tled I Lost My Body. by Ramin Za­hed

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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.

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