Messy <em>Despereaux</em> Business Messy <em>Despereaux</em> Business
Feature Film

Messy Despereaux Business


I alluded in an earlier Brew story that Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) wasn’t happy with his short-lived directing stint on Universal’s upcoming Tales of Despereaux. He was fired from the project shortly after the film received a production greenlight. An article in this weekend’s NY Times includes a lot of nasty allegations from Chomet, including the assertion by him that the film’s producer Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) wanted to direct the film “but because he can’t draw, he had to use me in order to get the green light.” Chomet also says that after he was fired from the film, “these bodyguards, big nasty-looking guys in suits, showed up; they took everything out of the studio and nailed doors shut so we couldn’t have access to it.” But the article’s most colorful Chomet quote is this one:

“We’re making a film for kids, a film that has a moral, and behind it is such aggressive action about lawyers and legal things – there are no human relationships. I felt like a lemon; they got the juice out of me and threw me away.”

Based on everything I’ve read and heard about Chomet, he doesn’t necessarily sound like the most easy person to work for, but it’s difficult not to admire a director who stands up for what he believes in and demands that films be filtered through his personal point of view. Directors, like Chomet, who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and actually have something to say are a rare breed in animation, and if anything, we need more artists like him.

(Thanks, Carolyn Bates)

  • Lou

    Thanks for posting this, Amid. I don’t know what it’s like working for Chomet. But, he does have a strong, personal point of view. He’s not just a hired hand. I admired his Triplettes of Belleville very much on many levels. I hope we see more of his films in the future.

  • Wow, the NY Times… I wonder if that will have any effect on the film’s publicity…

  • Brad

    The only effect it will have is to raise it’s profile. And although Chomet is as talented as many in the business, he comes across as a bit whiney in THIS article. A strong personal point of view is fine, but on projects this expensive, it’s all about COLLABORATION. The best directors and crew (and producers) keep that in mind. All artwork done to service the final film is nothing more than a means to an end–no matter how nice.

    Not everyone can be BIll Plympton!!! Now THERE’S someone dedicated to a point of view–and putting his money where his mouth is!!

  • Both Mr. Romano and Brad make strong points.

    I think I’m on the fence with this. This kind of behind-the-scenes stuff can bring out the truth, OR it could be truly harmful as well. If it IS just “whining”, then it’s sad that it doesn’t seem constructive.

    On the other hand Mr. Chomet makes a good point about the ethics of this business and I think as a recent graduate entering the industry, it is the source of my greatest conflicts.

    The trailer for Despereaux did look pretty good (if a bit derivative of Ratatouille) and I just hope that we’re able to judge the film on its own merits.

    It’s important to keep in mind that although the producer is painted as the villain, nothing is really that black-and-white.

  • H Park

    Here is a lesson to be learn. Be sure to copyright your designs before Hollywood screws you over.

  • Dave

    Well would much rather see the movie if Chomet had directed it. Pity.

  • FP

    This behind-the-scenes bad faith stuff is often more entertaining than the films that result. I say bring on more animation news of backstabbing and executive tampering and incompetence and other such things, with all the painful, awkward details. Animation needs its own version of THESUPERFICIAL.COM and DLISTED.COM and PEREZHILTON.COM.

  • Herb

    But FP, if animation had such websites, it would be considered HIP and that isn’t likely.

  • marc

    Are their any insiders from Despareaux here who can share some insight? how does the film look now? is the STORY any good??

  • Having seen the trailer before seeing Wall-E tonight (was incredible!!) I can’t say I have too much excitment for this film. It just seemed a typical “I can do it” film with cartoon animals that had more digitally simulated fur than any real character. Still, the designs might look good in 2D. Would have been nice to see what Chomet would have done with the film, especially seeing as I’m a fan of The Tripletts of Belvillie.

  • Eliot

    If they find a starved dead person behind one of those doors Universal’s goons nailed shut, the studio is gonna be in big trouble.

  • Ah the politics of Hollywood. Sylvain Chomet is both unfortunate and lucky. Often these things get left till midway during the film when someone decides to remove someone after disagreeing on something trivial. A lot more upsetting ,disruptive and often it divides loyalties among the crew .

    ” All artwork done to service the final film is nothing more than a means to an end–no matter how nice.”

    Brutal but accurate. You are hired for just that but the line is often blurred by a misunderstanding on both sides of the expectations of both parties. It’s easy now to look back and see things more clearly but at the time of course everyone is hyper from the budget and the cost of that the change and the artists “artistic vision”. My hope is it all works out and the parties involved move on quickly. Time is short and there is a lot to do.

  • iluvhatemail

    The guy made The Triplets of Belleville. Seriously, all Mr Seabiscuit should have done was ask him how much $$ he wanted. This movie may make money but it’s a failure already.

  • Johnny

    I think The Triplets was great. But everyone who works with Sylvain (or has worked with him recently) says he’s not what he used to be. He didn’t deliver, they kicked his butt out. Squeezed as a lemon? They payed him all they owed him. He’s just a being a bitter wanker…

  • Mongoose Jnr. III

    Sylvain Chomet had a limited input on this project a long time ago. -Why choose to sue right before the release after leaving over 2 YEARS ago??
    It just seems like HE’s the one trying to squeeze the lemon and make a quick extra buck in the name of “artistic integrity”, forgetting the THREE other directors and 300+ people that worked on the film.
    It’s also interesting that Mike Johnson is not mentioned anywhere – he was the second director of this project after Sylvain and before Sam Fell & Rob Stevenhagen.
    It’s very hard to take these claims seriously…

  • Raf

    Sylvain is not the one who is to talk about morals. I worked for him a few years back, directly. The (French) production company behind the film went bankrupt, in order not to have to pay their debts.
    I lost 30000 euro in the process (several months of work, plane tickets and lawyers). Sylvain knows (personally) but doesn’t care. He’s about to engage in a new film with the same production company (under a different name obviously). A few words of him could have avoided I needed to work 5 years… to fill the hole the 30000 euro made here.

    “Mr. Chomet said he was seeking not money but acknowledgment as a creative force behind the film”. Honestly, I don’t have the luxury to care about acknowledgment, I’m seeking money.

  • dave

    Sylvain Chomet did almost nothing for Despereaux – he took Universal for a free ride and that’s why he was fired. No matter how admirable his position might look to the outsider, this is all bull… He is not the Robin Hood fighting for the rights of the artists versus the big studios, as he would love to be seen. The truth is, he has turned into a vicious venture capitalist himself (ask anyone who worked at his studio Django). Sylvain and morals!… give me a brake! There were no ‘concepts’ of his ever used in the movie. The fact that he is claiming that ‘most of what we see on screen is his’ is based on a 2 min. trailer only is suspicious enough: the movie is not out yet. He is just a bitter wanker trying to harm the movie. A very talented wanker, I have to admit, but I would not take him seriously.

  • Mark Bryson

    It’s not only Gary Ross that Chomet has had disputes with he has also given a very public lashing in the past to Pixar about the quality of film’s it produces. He seems to have distaste for Hollywood. Didn’t he only last 3 months at Disney before he walked?

    What has happened to Chomet’s adaptation of Jacques Tati’s L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)? It’s been in development for years wasn’t it supposed to be released in May? Did he buy the Tati script? It’s been documented that Tati had wrote the L’Illusionniste as a letter to his estranged daughter has she been consulted?

    Chomets former partner, Nicolas De Crécy says Chomet plagiarized his work upon the release or Triplettes.

    It would appear that Chomet’s lack or morals knows no bounds and the way he cries for himself as the victim is shameful.