25 Beautiful Stills From the New Anthology Feature ‘The Prophet’ (Gallery)

The producer of this year’s most intriguing and visually eclectic animated feature may well end up being the Mexican/Arabic actress Salma Hayek, who screened a work-in-progress version of her pet project, The Prophet, last week in Cannes. Based on the prose poetry of beloved early-20th century Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran, the $12-million feature was supervised by director Roger Allers (The Lion King, Open Season).

Not only did Hayek make the novel decision to produce a philosophically-driven animated feature with religious undertones, she also decided to make it hand-drawn. It’s almost as if she wanted no one to see it. I kid, I kid. But seriously, the film doesn’t have a distributor in the United States yet, and that’s telling of the irrationally hostile environment for hand-drawn feature animation in this country. It’s certainly not for a lack of quality; the stills gallery below and the names of the artists involved should leave little doubt that this will be a gorgeous-looking film. [UPDATE: The film isn’t entirely hand-drawn. Parts of the film are toon-shaded CG.]

Hayek recruited nine filmmakers to create different parts of the film in their own unique styles. “The more different they are, the better, because it’s a surprise,” she told Variety. “You don’t know where you’re going to go next. There’s such a freedom with the film.”

The filmmakers who participated were Michal Socha (Chick, plus that amazing Simpsons opening), Joan Gratz (Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase), Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat), Tomm Moore (Secret of Kells), Bill Plympton (Guard Dog, Cheatin’), Mohammed Saeed Harib (Freej), and Paul and Gaetan Brizzi (“Firebird Suite” in Fantasia 2000). Allers handled the overarching narrative which concerns the friendship between a young girl and an imprisoned poet.

Voice cast includes Liam Neeson, John Krasinski, Quvenzhane Wallis, and Hayek. Funding for the film was provided by Doha Film Institute, Participant Media, MyGroup Lebanon, FFA Private Bank, Financiere Pinault and Code Red Prods. The film’s official website is GibransProphetMovie.com. Here’s a good LA Times piece about the challenges of producing such an unconventional animated feature.

(Images via Variety Latino; h/t, Matt Jones)


  • Pedro Nakama

    Nice work. I’m getting the old UPA/Richard Williams title art vibe here.

  • Joseph Patrick

    I can’t believe it! Being partially of Lebanese decent, familiar with Gibran’s poetry, and a fan of animation… it’s like this film was made for me! Probably my most anticipated film in… ever.

  • SJ Nixon

    It’s unfortunate to keep seeing that we, the 3D crew who created and animated the overarching story line at Bardel, have not been mentioned.

    • RickyB

      New to feature work? Be happy that the concept artwork is released early and looks great. Your studio will get your credit in due time. The marketing machine isn’t about you. Looking forward to seeing all your guys’ work though.

      • bento

        SJ Nixon, correct me if I’m wrong – but images 1,7,13,14,16,17,18,19,22, and 23 from the gallery look to me like they are cg character animation.

        Would be good if Amid could correct the article to be a bit more balanced, and less misleading.

        • AmidAmidi

          I’ve updated the post to reflect that it’s not all hand-drawn.

      • Matt

        Stills being released it a must in this case (ie. finding a distributor, need to create buzz)

        No the marketing machine isnt about the service studio. Yes it should mention Bardel but didnt.

        Doesnt stop Cartoonbrew from saying Bardel Entertainment!

    • GS

      It’s unfortunate, but the target demo for a film like this are those who are itching for 2D as it’s an endangered species, so the 3D stuff is going to be overlooked.

  • Tomm

    By the way the music is also going to be great on this film. Gabriel Yared wrote the score and there are songs by Damien Rice, Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    Nina Paley, Tomm Morre, Bill Plympton and so many others… I don’t know to say except…

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/0e464fd4b9650443b99a88deba5ed60b/tumblr_mga3faftNp1rjv730o2_500.jpg

  • mandori

    Unless i’m very mistaken, the characters do look like 3dcg with a 2d shader. Can’t wait to see more of this though

  • AmidAmidi

    Thanks for sharing these details, Tomm. Your section looks great!

  • Bob Harper

    Beautiful looking work. Is Nina using Flash for her segment? Also the other thing hurting this film from US distribution it appears to be an anthology. Fantasia 2000 didn’t make back it’s budget at the B.). and that was with Disney’s marketing team. I can’t think of many live action anthologies that did too well in the Box Office for that matter.

    • Matt

      I think US distribution would be nice but lets remember there is always Canada! Yeesh, USA isn’t the be all end all folks

      • RickyB

        Unless you want profitability. Either way I think the bulk of the revenue will be from the international on this one. That book is loved around the world.

      • Bob Harper

        I can’t afford to drive up to Canada to see the on the big screen, and I know the USA is such a small market for films ;) but would be nice to at least get an art house distribution out of this.

  • JWLane

    Even from just the stills (as an illustrator) those frames from you and your crew are magnificent, and sexy. This is really a high form of the art.

  • Matt

    I worked on the film.

    You work within the constraints of the budget and with the tools you have at your disposal.

    I think the film looks pretty good all things considering. I’m proud to have been apart of this unique film.

    • Anon

      “You work within the constraints of the budget and with the tools you have at your disposal.”

      I agree and that’s why I feel CG was the wrong choice for this project. I was not blaming the 3D animators.

      • Matt

        It shouldn’t matter what the medium is. There is a story being told. The medium you use should be selected based on your production needs and objectives. I love traditional animation but to make this film how you’re suggesting would have taking far too long. You really should see the film. The cg looks pretty good. I can’t get into the process but the result is nice.

  • Aimebebe

    The problem isn’t that it’s 3D, it was the budget and constraints placed on the animators. Low budget 2D doesn’t look that much better than CG just because it’s 2D.
    And from what I’ve seen of the movie so far, the people at Bardel did an amazing job with the little time and manpower that they had.

    • Anon

      I disagree. Low budget 2D does look better than low budget 3D.

  • Paul M

    Never thought I’d need another reason to love Salma Hayek.

  • Bob Harper

    Great! Keep towing the line for the rest of us. I miss my Macromedia Flash 8 – I’m not too thrilled with the CS stuff, but am getting by.

  • Henry Cohn

    Is Cartoon Saloon involved in this?

    • Tomm

      Yes chapter “On Love” was done in Cartoon Saloon

      • Henry Cohn

        Thanks.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    I too worked on the film in a very small part in Vancouver.
    Before Bardel even worked on it, there was an attempt to do the bridging sequences with the poet’s story in drawn animation. I saw a few pencil tests among the animatic I saw my first day. They were very excellent, but drawing style and model seemed to change from scene to scene. I only surmise that doing the different scenes from different studios around the world was a bitch and expense to coordinate.
    I think people will be pleased with the film and the settled style for the story sequences. This is a little uplifting art film and makes no pretension to be a Hollywood “happy meal” film.

  • Joo

    Coming from Europe, that sounds like a pretty hostile environment for any creative endeavor.

  • Still. Take my Money.

    Honestly think from those stills, Plymptons stuff looks the most garish
    and out of place as a whole. Pretty awful looking aesthetically and
    haphazard.

    Hopefully, the 11th grade art style will hopefully add to the story/segment he’s given and not detract from it.