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Feature FilmFlash

Feature Preview: “Ernest and Celestine”

A funny thing has happened: as hand-drawn studio-produced animated features have all but disappeared from the American animation scene, European and Asian studios are enjoying a mini-renaissance of drawn feature films. The latest example is Ernest et Célestine, adapted from a French children’s book series about the unlikely friendship between a gruff bear with artistic ambitions and an intelligent mouse who doesn’t want to become a dentist. The clip above gives a taste of the film’s breezy visual style that mixes broken-line characters with watercolor-style backgrounds–animated in Flash no less.

Directors are Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, the latter two of whom directed the recent stop-motion feature A Town Called Panic. The 80-minute feature is a co-production between France (Les Armateurs, Maybe Movies, Studiocanal France), Belgium (La Parti) and Luxembourg (Mélusine Productions). Ernest et Célestine will have its world premiere this week at the Directors’ Fortnight, which takes place alongside the Cannes Film Festival.

Another extended film clip as well as a video showing the paperless production pipeline can be viewed after the jump. It’s all in French, but don’t let that stop you from taking a peek.

  • Adam

    Beautiful! I’d love to see more American studios adapt a greater variety of hand-drawn visual styles.

    • KS

      I’d Love to have American Studios produce more Hand-Drawn Films Period, CGI is okay, but it’s hard to understand why hand-Drawn Films should be ignored rather than allow a few Hand-Drawn Animation Studios shine when they want to, even if CGI is now dominant.

      Anyway I’d like to see the film be released in the United Kingdom.

  • feep

    Holy crap, that seriously took my breath away. Such beautiful animation, such charm in the expressions. I need this yesterday.

    (are they animating in flash!? what a what a convincing ink stroke they’re getting!)

  • That looks beautiful! I wonder if part of the problem for studios in the US is an inability to conceive of features that DONT look traditionally “Disney” (probably the fault of suits more than artists). Sure, we’ll probably never get anything ever again that looks like Bambi or Fantasia, but wouldn’t music be pretty boring if we’d had a steady diet of Beethoven/Mozart for the last 300 years?

    Viva la difference!

  • Agh! They use tablets!?! I would lose my mind. Where are the Cintiqs?

    • Ryan

      Small Budget… Co-production… Government film grant… words that are more often associated with projects & studios not founded by Walter Elias Disney, Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs or Travis & Phil Knight. You can’t expect e’m to Cintiq24HD an entire crew, although I did see a handful of cintiq12wx in that last video, which are great. But animating on a standard tablet is not Earth shatteringly terrible, just ask Adam Phillips.

    • Is it possible to animate with a tablet?

      • Taylor

        I hope you’re trolling.

      • ….

        I wish I can delete my own comment.

  • This is a glimpse of the future, where CG films are another medium to choose from instead of an arbitrary first choice. The strange insistence that drawn films are obsolete is like claiming in the eighties that the violin can be thrown away because we have the electric keyboard.

  • I’ve been eager to see more and more finished artwork or animation of this film for years. The directors have teased visuals in presentations at least two of the past three CARTOON Forum’s in Europe, and each time I move farther toward the edge of my seat.

    Needless to say, it looks spectacular.

  • This looks incredible! I love the scrambling movements and blocking for this film! And those backgrounds, so beautiful! I love those directors, they can do me no wrong! Thank you ever so much for sharing!

    Now to learn french…

  • Agh this looks soo awesome! I love how soft everything looks and the acting is simply adorable.
    I hope there’s a chance I can see this on the big screen someday.

  • Philippe Tardif

    I met Benjamin Renner in Annecy right after he graduated from La Poudrière and his student films blew my mind. The guy is amazingly talented, so I can’t wait to see this. The animation and art direction is absolutely gorgeous and the characters, especially in clip #3, are really interesting. Nice voice acting too.

    I really hope this is as good as these clips lead me to believe!

  • siemasko

    That is beautiful! I could watch animation in this style all day.

    I’ve seen so many good looking films coming from European and Canadian co-productions, that it makes me wonder about how this works.

    I have a nerdy question for anyone in the know…
    Does any of the funding come from private investors, is it the studios partially backing the films or is it all government subsidy?
    Are subsidies up front funding or are they tax breaks for the studios that produce them?
    If the films are profitable, do they have to pay the taxes back?
    Are any of the governments scaling back their programs due to the Euro crisis?
    Thanks in advance!

  • MadRat

    I’m very impressed with the artwork and animation. I almost forget what non-CG animation looks like that isn’t anime. My only complaint is that the ears of the mice are a little small which makes them look like the rats (my favorite animal). But I don’t think audience members who aren’t biologist or rodentaphiles will know the difference.

  • Gobo

    This looks completely gorgeous — I love the acting, the characters, and the Miyazaki-esqe cliff huts in the background.

    As a fan of the original books, I have to say that this has nothing at all to do with them — the books are quiet and cute little picture books about a little mouse-girl living with a bear — so I’m fascinated to see why the rat police are after a suddenly monstrous Ernest.

    • Jchien

      I agree. I like this animation on its own, but I was sooo looking forward to seeing the books come to life, and neither the style of the drawings nor the story has even the vaguest resemblance to the books, which I have all of and constantly read to my daughter (who understands French). I’m wishing the animators had named this after something else, and devoted another film to Ernest et Celestine, which are, I’m realizing as I type, my favorite children’s stories ever. Sniff.

  • Mic

    Looks fantastic!!! I want to see it now!

  • Really delightful! Deceptively delicate graphics merged with wonderfully idiosyncratic acting, timing, staging & choreography. The movement of the police was “LOL funny.” I can’t wait to see this, hopefully subtitled (these voices are PERFECT, even though I am far from fluent in French).

  • anonymous

    It would be nice for a studio to produce such a piece in North America, Unfortunately I think many audiences have grown up with Disney (it isn’t a bad thing!) as a platform for what animation is. Many that read this blog ,including myself love the varieties and various ways animation can be produced but unfortunately western audiences(not associated with the animation field) have a harder time accepting this. Miyazaki or Chomet are a good example. I do hope this changes in the future, variety is a good thing!.


  • Great stuff, really charming!

  • Scarabim

    That was SUPERB!!!!

  • This is fantastic! I’ve never seen Flash that looks like this. Great timing and rhythm – the swarm of rat-police is genius!

  • bob kurtz

    that was fun to watch!!!!!

  • Hal

    That action sequence conjures the same thrills when I first saw CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO… safe to say, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor after that.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      If only Streamline Pictures was around to give this title a boost here!

  • Face

    Sooo good!!

  • tomm

    This is the feature from Europe I’m most excited about this year. It has been accepted in Cannes no less.A big deal for an animation film for kids. The animation and story seem charming and I’m really impressed with the software our friends in Digital Graphics studio in Liege Belgium developed to make the flash animation (frame by frame drawings with the brush tool) look like watercolours…

    • person who knows tomm

      Good things come to those who wait. :)

  • GeneRasputinHole

    beautiful! kinda sad that here stateside we relegate this style/look of animation to commercials for toilet paper…

    • Gobo

      The same style is used for toilet paper ads in Europe, too — the Charmin bears aren’t only in America.

  • Spencer

    I still use a tablet. Am I a dinosaur?

    That was flat out gorgeous.

  • Tom T.

    I’m really looking forward to this, it looks delightful! Speaking of the mini-renaissance of drawn feature films in Europe, there was also a French production called Zarafa that appeared earlier this year – it should be out on DVD by mid-June. Without English subtitles, alas.

  • Felix Sputnik

    Just watched it…
    now I’m going to watch it again…

  • Amazing film from what I’ve seen so far. This is a must see for me and a wake up call to American Animation Studios Hey wake up!!!! Look at this!!!! Why can’t we do something like this?

  • I like French Cartoons, I wish they would do more. They have a unique style.