Fin­ish­ing Strong

Animation Magazine - - Features -

First-time di­rec­tor Rémi Chayé and his French-Dan­ish crew took the time to get the story and look just right for po­ten­tial awards con­tender Long Way North. By Tom McLean.

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terms of di­rect­ing. The an­i­matic was in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful,” Ma­ga­lon says. “But my con­clu­sion … is that the story it­self had prob­lems. It was not an an­i­mated prob­lem, it was a story prob­lem.” Ma­ga­lon came on as co-pro­ducer, bring­ing fi­nanc­ing with him, and was in­stru­men­tal in re­work­ing the story be­fore an­i­ma­tion be­gan.

Dyens also got Claus Toksvig Kjaer of Dan­ish an­i­ma­tion stu­dio Nør­lum to sign on af­ter an hour-long meet­ing at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. Nør­lum had worked on Car­toon Saloon’s fea­ture Song of the Sea and was in need of a fol­low-up project. The stu­dio, which has lo­ca­tions in Vi­borg and Copen­hagen, did slightly less than half the an­i­ma­tion in the movie, in­clud­ing col­or­ing and clean-up, Kjaer says.

But the script was in con­stant flux. Pao­letti’s first draft earned sup­port from France’s CNC and she en­listed the aid of Pa­tri­cia Valeix, who ended up co-writ­ing the script, with a third writer, Fabrice de Cos­til, rewrit­ing it again with the new an­gle of the grand­fa­ther’s lost ship as the fo­cus for Sacha’s quest.

The rewrites cost the pro­duc­tion time — the movie’s end­ing had not been worked out be- fore pro­duc­tion had to start — and Chayé turned to a small group of col­lab­o­ra­tors to work out the story. “We had no time to fin­ish the sto­ry­board, so I hired two guys, Liane-Cho Han and Maïlys Val­lade, and we worked very quickly and very rough on very sketchy sto­ry­boards for five, six months and we built it com­pletely,” Chayé says. “We went back from sto­ry­boards to the script writer, from the script writer to the sto­ry­boards, and it was re­ally good fun and very en­thu­si­as­tic.”

“We started an­i­mat­ing be­fore we had the end writ­ten,” says Ma­ga­lon. “In France, it is re­ally rare to do that. … It was a bit chal­leng­ing and risky for us but it paid even­tu­ally with a film we are very proud of.”

Pro­duc­tion on the movie was very col­lab­o­ra­tive, with Chayé open to in­put and con­tri­bu­tions from ev­ery­one. Ma­ga­lon says the pro­duc­ers and crew were all in­volved in work­ing on the script, the an­i­ma­tion and on fin­ish­ing the fi­nanc­ing. “We worked to­gether jointly on all the de­ci­sions of the line pro­duc­tion: Where to lo­cate the stu­dios, what team to hire, how to ac­com­pany Rémi the best,” he says.

Drop­ping the Line The look of the movie came slowly to Chayé, whose ex­pe­ri­ence is mostly with nar­ra­tive el­e­ments like sto­ry­boards and lay­out in­stead of de­sign. “I had no per­sonal style to work with and I had to de­fine it,” he says. “I looked at the in­flu­ence of the peo­ple I was work­ing for, like Tomm Moore on Bren­dan and the Se­cret of Kells and Jean-François Laguionie on Le Tableau. … Fi­nally, at one point, I dis­cov­ered that if I re­move the line of my draw­ings, the re­sult was some­how in­ter­est­ing, so I de­cided to go along with that idea.”

With the story prob­lems solved and the an­i­matic work­ing, an­i­ma­tion was a rel­a­tively smooth 18-month process for the fea­ture. “Liane-Cho Han was the su­per­vi­sor of the whole thing, an­i­ma­tion wise,” says Chayé. “The main thing for me was to make sure they caught the emo­tion and Han made a very beau­ti­ful job on that part.”

One thing Chayé in­sisted on was as much gen­der par­ity as pos­si­ble on the crew. “It’s more nat­u­ral,” he says. “I tried to bal­ance it as much as pos­si­ble.” The crew count peaked at about 75 peo­ple, with about 30 work­ing at Nør­lum’s two Den­mark lo­ca­tions.

Re­ac­tion to the pic has been pos­i­tive and strong, with the film­mak­ers hav­ing brought it to the United States and Ja­pan to show at stu­dios such as Pixar, LAIKA and DreamWorks.

“They were all re­ally im­pressed by the film and they were ac­tu­ally laugh­ing when we told them we made it for 6 mil­lion eu­ros,” says Dyens. “First they laugh, then they ap­plaud when they see we are not kid­ding.”

Now, au­di­ences — and awards sea­son vot­ers — in the United States will have a chance to see the film for them­selves. [

Sacha (voiced by Chloé Dunn) sets out to find her lost ex­plorer grand­fa­ther in

Con­cept sketch of Ou­loukine’s li­brary.

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