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Feature Film

“Le Chat du Rabbin” Trailer

Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) opens in French theaters on June 1, 2011. Directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux, the film is based on Sfar’s popular comic series of the same name.

It’s being produced by the Paris-based animation studio Banjo and production company Autochenille. Both companies were launched by Sfar, Delesvaux, and illustrator Clement Oubrerie with the goal of “making author-driven, challenging films to appeal to children and adults.” The hand-drawn film is modestly budgeted at under US$18 million. That’s similar to the budget for The Illusionist, and a far cry from the ever-increasing costs of CG features like Hop ($63 million), Rango ($150 million) and Tangled ($200-plus million). No word yet on theatrical distribution beyond French territories, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The official film synopsis:

Algiers, 1920s. Rabbi Sfar has more than one problem. His beautiful daughter is becoming a teenager and above all, his parrot-killing cat has just started talking! The delivery of a trunk from Russia further complicates matters when a painter is discovered inside, more dead than alive. The painter is on a quest for a hidden tribe and its mythical city in Africa. Convinced that the city really exists, he sets off on an incredible adventure, taking with him the Rabbi and his cat, a wise old Arab Sheikh and an eccentric Russian millionaire.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)

  • MattG

    Well at least they’re experimenting with applying a distinct visual style to the animation.
    And that fact that it’s a 2D feature film is great.
    But is “the talking animal” formula, and a direct interpretation of the scenes from the daily life of a place all that this medium is good for?
    Well is it?

    • I guess you can never have your cake and eat it too..

    • jackR

      Responding to the comments about style, Joann Sfar is french comic artist apart of the extremely strong comic book culture in France. The art of the film is strong representation of his style, but I am also happy to see that they took some liberties and made it unique!

    • Oluseyi

      I haven’t read Mme Sfar’s comics, but I’m going to guess that the backgrounds are taken from the comics, though it’s an interesting stylistic choice to maintain the linework-heavy approach for animation. It probably means carefully controlled camera moves that simply pan and zoom; I’d be interested to see if there are perspective changes that require redrawing those lines for each frame (or letting them jitter wildly… or writing software to draw them!)

      Certainly distinct. I’d love to see this :)

      • First, you’ll want to check out Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon books, Sfar has done art on a bunch. Second, easy mistake, but it’s Msr., not Mme. Joann, like Johan, not Joan. Again, easy mistake. And my opinion, this looks brilliant. Cheers!

  • Gray64

    If quality 2D animation can now be produced on a modest budget, perhaps then we’ll see more experimental 2D films, and domestically animated ones at that. I was always under the impression that good 2D animation was frightfully expensive, hence the reason for American companies to farm out their animation to foreign (usually Korean or Japanese) studios (and please–no “Japanese/Korean animators are “just better” cracks; we all know American animators are the equal to anybody if they’re actually given a chance to animate something). Or maybe it’s just that American studio execs are just really, really cheap…

    • “Or maybe it’s just that American studio execs are just really, really cheap…” or are really expensve and need to get animationb done on the cheap to ensure they can pay their salaries. And yes I am a cynic.

    • I never really understood the pricing thing. Korea and Japan aren’t third world countries, so how can labor be significantly cheaper to do there? Their standard of living is approximately the same as the North American/European standard.

      Further if people could afford to make decent shorts in America in the past (like 1930’s – 1950’s), why can’t they now? With the advances in technology and things it should be cheaper and easier all the time to do the same thing. You don’t need people to ink cells, painting backgrounds is less work, you don’t have to line up the shots with a camera, etc.

      As we advance, it should get easier/cheaper for us to do things and we should be able to do more of the things we did before (if we desire).

      I don’t know, I’m not in economics, so…

      • Used to be people would pay to see shorts. I’m banking on it that that they still will, but the proof will be in the pudding. Make a short, and instead of giving it away for free, charge people to view it.

        When people can only get quality shorts by paying for it and all YouTube has to offer is ads and turtles humping shoes, people will pay to see quality animated shorts.

      • Kelly Toon

        I suspect it is because of increases in minumum wage, inflation, high cost of doing business, protectionism, etc.

  • I followed an announcement (tweet), from a couple months ago, that included art from the graphic novel. The plot, style and setting all comes off as delightful.

    Also, interesting budget notes. If adequate wages are paid for this much human labor, in a European welfare state with affordable health care, and it’s still about a $180M savings; well I’m not a Nobel winning economist, but what’s not right about this picture.

  • Well the style is, not what i expected. But it grew on me very quickly. And even though the talking animal formula is present, i’m confident it’ll still be quite different.

  • Adam

    This made my morning. I love the books and I love Sfar’s style. It translates beautifully to animation. I hope Sardine is next.

    • Sadine would be great. Must show it to my daughter now you’ve brought it to mind. It’s great the way they’ve captured Sfar’s scratchy style in such a clean line.

  • Chris

    Well I think anyone who complains about the “talking animal” formula should go take a look at the graphic novels first. The Rabbi’s Cat is about as far away from Disney or Dreamworks as you could get. The comics also confront topics like growing up, losing loved ones, and a lot of religious satire. Definitely more than just reflecting everyday life in another culture. People can’t even understand the dialogue and they’re complaining that the cat is talking and making comparisons to Disney crap already!

    • Ace Weems

      Absolutely right!
      This is one of favourite graphic novels.
      Hilarious that the first words that the cat speaks is a lie. (No Spoilers here)
      You have to read it to believe it.
      The settings, the characters, the intelligence and the adventures make for a wonderfully original and very adult story.
      Do yourself a favour and read the graphic novel, “The Rabbi’s Cat” first.

  • Cheez, I hope Vimeo gets its act together and fixes its site. The newest Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers show only a black box for Vimeo videos. No other video streaming sites are affected. Who knows why only Vimeo has this problem and, after trying to downplay it (before thousands of users complained), can’t seem make it right no matter how often the site’s spokesperson claim the issue is being addressed..

  • It’s like Persepolis. . . but in color. Awesome!

    • Adam

      Is that snark? If so, do yourself a favor and read the source material. Some of the best comics in a long time.
      If it’s not snark, there’s really not much of a comparison to Persepolis.

  • This film looks great, and I hope it gets wide distribution here.

    $18 million is on the medium-high end of the scale, I’d say, for honestly budgeted 2D animated features.

    A certain Canadian film noir animated feature still looking for funding is budgeted at $25 million – if I wanted the name public, I’d have said it here, please don’t write it below.

    Tekkonkinkreet and Aachi & Ssipak fall in the $3-4 million dollar range.

    And Nick Cross’s Black Sunrise is budgeted at $25,000.

    I’d call those figures honest – without the bloated executive salaries.

    But what determines a film’s success is distribution. Neither Tekkonkinkreet nor Aachi & Ssipak made back the cost of the film prints in the box office let alone made a dent in their production budgets.

    So even though Disney and Dreamworks spend $2-300 million per animated movie, they also earn back more than enough from the box office, DVD, cable, TV, and merchandising to make it worth it.

    So while it’s great that there are production companies that support author-driven films, there needs to be distribution companies that do the same and ensure the bulk of the money goes to the filmmakers.

    That’s why I started one.

    • And along with distribution can be the cost of marketing, which can cost a harsh bundle, at least if you want professional exposure. You can market yourself on a budget of course, but it’s a lot of work that’s not fun.

      God this film looks great though. Never heard of the comic but that’s what I’ve got the Brew for. I second your thoughts, Amid, on hoping for a wider release of this sometime. Or at least an update in the future where we can snag a copy of this for ourselves.

  • @Rajesh – Really?! Tekkonkinkreet was under 5mil? It’s a shame they couldn’t make back that money, it’s one of my favorite films.

    I’m so happy to see this clip, it’s really beautiful and seems fun. I haven’t read the comic but now I think I’ll check it out. : D My fingers are crossed with you, Amid! I’d love to see this in theaters.

  • Simply beautiful, i’ve always adored BDs and the animation suits it perfectly with flowing organic drawings, nicely developed characters and a simple, heartfelt story.


    Looks like Banjo and Django are lookin’ to satisfy eachother. This looks like a beautiful war.

  • cbat628

    I like that even though I don’t have a clue what they’re saying (I think I was able to pick up fromage a.k.a. cheese), I can still see a lot of their personality. Definitely hoping for a wide distribution. I’m also very interested in the graphic novel, thanks Brew.

  • J.M

    Thanks so much Amid for posting this!. I guess this is so good I can now personally forgive you for posting all that gay He-Man stuff last week.

    this reminds me of TinTin I love it.

  • That looks really great except – I hope it’s just the trailer encode or an interlacing fail, but it looks kind of low-res, like someone drew/scanned all the line work at 72dpi, like in my shitty student films from the 90s.

  • this looks great…A fairly faithfull adaptation of the graphic novel. But I struggle to imagine what projecting it “en 3D” is going to add to it.

  • anonymous

    I’m very happy to see some 2D slowly making its way back. The film looks quite charming and enjoyable. Although I’m not taken with the clean up and coloring, digital ink and paint may be cheap but it flattens the picture taking away all the feel behind the original drawings.

    Nonetheless, this might encourage Canadian and Amercican production companies to invest in the hand drawn medium. Hand drawn films have always been cheaper because the medium has mostly already been figured out, everything is created by the stroke of the pencil, simple yet effective.

    Even in 2D harmony studios, they spend a bundle trying to give it a 2D look and feel. I heard harmony is going to make the program compatible with 3D builds so you can import them in. I think they have it completly wrong, if want a a 2D feel, just draw it, can’t get more 2D than that.

    I know that many animators here are just waiting for opportunities like this film to emerge here in north America. fingers crossed.

  • Incredible!!!!
    A joy!
    I’ve not been so pleased to see animation since…well I can’t even think when.
    Anyone with anything negative to say should consider boiling their heads in pig fat.

  • This looks gorgeous and amazing. :D I really hope to be able to see it one day!

  • Mister Twister

    Me likey!

  • This is a direct quote from Brad Bird: “Long live 2D !!”
    True, I heard him say it at a San Francisco lecture.

  • I’m REALLY happy to see the visual style (busy cross-hatching) preserved in both BGs and the character animation (on CUs).
    This film really looks to be a true representation of the books’ visuals.


  • i’m really, really excited this is coming out.