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Feature Film

Chomet’s Illusionist footage to debut at Cannes

The Illusionist
(click for full-size image)

The Hollywood Reporter notes that the first footage from Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist will debut this month at Cannes. The hand-drawn and CG feature, scheduled for release in the UK and France in 2009, is budgeted at $22 million, quite a bit heftier than Chomet’s earlier Triplets of Belleville which had a modest budget of $8 million. The story of the film, based on an unproduced script by French comic legend Jacques Tati, is described by the Reporter as the tale “of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever.”

Speaking of Chomet, here’s an oldie but goodie: an article he wrote for the NY Times in 2004 about his time working at Disney, as well as the general lack of personal vision in contemporary animated features. The experience he describes of working at Disney Toronto is sadly one that is repeated far too frequently throughout the industry. Chomet writes:

“Once, my team in Canada was sent to Los Angeles to meet the people in charge of our project there. By this time we were on the sixth rewrite of the script, and we had a daylong brainstorming session in which we were locked in a big room with executives and so-called creatives. One executive suggested a rewrite incorporating an idea she had in the car that morning. Heads nodded, notes were scribbled and script No. 7 was born. It was like watching a runaway steam train being driven by a flock of headless chickens.”

  • I had been wondering what Chomet was up to since Triplets… I’m VERY happy he’s still making features, apparently with even more support than before. The idea that he could make a film like Triplets on $8 million is amazing to me. I will be first in line if this new film ever shows up in New York.

    As for his experience with Disney… thank God he didn’t stick around!

  • That looks spectacular. I’ve been dying to see what the Illusionist is going to look like. Too bad his TV ads aren’t readily available online…

  • red pill junkie

    Isn’t it incredible? One single frame of the movie, and you’re automatically hooked! If that’s not magic, I don’t know what it is :-)

  • Sean Williams

    I agree with red pill junkie. Just this one frame of the movie has me wanting more.

  • That whole thing with the exec and the epiphany in the car is classic.

    I do hope this one gets a better distribution deal so more people can see it in theatres. I wouldn’t mind a little quicker pacing in this work either.

  • Saturnome

    The pose of the character on the picture reminds me of Jacques Tati. Great!

  • I love the work of Jacques Tati, and I can definitely see his work translated into animation. And it’s produced from an unused Tati script too… this is like finding a lost film!

  • Chuck R.

    I absolutely adore Triplettes. To me it feels like like a French artist zeroed in on 101 Dalmatians as a starting point and re-invented feature animation along a parallel evolutionary course, choosing to emphasize rather than de-emphasize everything I love about animation: great anatomical drawing, crazy caricature, gritty black linework and texture, all working within incandescent, deeply saturated environments.

    I may be alone here, but with this comparatively tame still, it looks like he’s going back to 101 Dalmations. I’m not asking for a ToB sequel, but I hope he’s got a few funky old people lurking in the story somewhere.

    I’ll add that if there’s going to be renewed interest in 2D feature films, Chomet has the right idea. The films should have an unabashedly hand-drawn look that stands apart from the clean antiseptic quality of most Hollywood CGI. Tekkonkinkreet is another good model.

  • Articles like that NY Times piece disappoint me in never naming names, so we never find out which executive thought so little of her responsibilities that she did no more prep for a meeting than to briefly muse about it in her car.

    Or perhaps that story isn’t accurate at all. A name attached to that figure would give us more confidence that it was. An anonymous villain is about as useful to the reader as an anonymous source.

  • I loved the uniqueness of Triplettes. I can’t wait to see this next film. Tekkonkinkreet had a distinct style and energy to it as well. Loved them both.

  • I agree about the lack of personal vision. That is something that kept me away from a lot of animated features, is that there was something too general about them, and nothing to distinct them from others.

    I hope Chomet’s new film comes to American art houses, or somewhere in America. Its been fives years since BELLVILLE, which is one of the golden spots of the last ten years. Just this one image alone fascinates me.

    I heard Chomet had his own problems during the making of BELLVILLE. Were there problems during this new one. Because he is in a position I think more animation directors should be in. To direct an animated feature with their own personal vision.

  • This sounds interesting. The only thing I really didn’t like about Triplets was that the script seemed like it was written by Camus :( Tati sounds much more fun, I hope it turns out well.

  • kborcz

    This is AWESOME looking!!!
    I hope they bring it to theatres here in the states. At least the art houses or festivals or SOMETHING. Geez. I love the feeling of this story of this just based on the one picture.

  • Wow, thanks for re-linking that NYT’s article. A very well-written read.

    As for Chomet’s new film, I’m really excited to see the finished piece! His color palettes, though somber to most, is actually very relaxing to watch in a film after watching too many bright, primary-colored films.

  • I guess John K. is going to hate this movie too

  • Buddy Winkler

    Wonder if Jacques Tati’s original screenplay was in some way influenced by Chaplin’s “Limelight” feature, which showcases similar subject matter. There is certainly room for more than one take on the dying of the light played in a proscenium music hall setting, and Chomet and co. will do it like no one else.

  • Esn

    As a fan of both Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, I am definitely looking forward to this.

  • David D

    Just magical. Better than Krishna incarnate on a Cornwall salad plate, sight unseen.

  • OneSmartHonky

    An idea by Jacques Tati? Maaaaaybe I’ll watch it on DVD.

    I bet it will LOOK great though. Belleville looked great and was pretty good.

  • Steve Gattuso

    That one shot looks astounding. And a Jacques Tati script? It just went on my “must see” list.

  • Thanks for posting this!
    The NYT article was GREAT… sad, though.

    Looking forward to Chomet’s latest! :)

  • “One executive suggested a rewrite incorporating an idea she had in the car that morning. Heads nodded, notes were scribbled and script No. 7 was born.”

    Yer serious. S**t like this actually occurs. Really. My art director Rob accuses me of being too cynical about North American feature animation, and here it turns out I’m not being cynical enuff. Phnark.

  • I’m very happy to hear that Mr. Chomet is making another feature. The storyline sounds wonderful. Keep up the good work!! You’re an inspiration to us all!!

  • Allan Smith

    Found this interesting article about the Illusionist. Is Chomet not telling us something?

  • I saw the first 15 minutes of the film at Cartoon Movie in Lyon, France March 2010.

    You will not be disappointed, that is for sure.

    I also want to see the rest :-)