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Feature Film

Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist Debuts in February

The Illusionist

The Illusionist, the long-awaited follow-up feature from Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), will debut next month at the Berlin International Film Festival. This article from Scotland’s The Herald confirms that the hand-drawn film is Scotland’s most expensive film production ever, with a budget “significantly north of £10 million.” In US dollars, that works out to a modest $16 million, which would be considered a bargain by most studios. According to the article, the film was made primarily in Edinburgh at ­Chomet’s Django Films, with further work done by in Dundee, Scotland and another studio in Paris. Personally, I’ve heard that to get the film done, they farmed out large parts to service studios, including around forty minutes of assistant animation and clean-up to Sunwoo in South Korea.

To take advantage of Scottish film incentives, Chomet transposed the film’s action from Paris to Edinburgh and the Western Isles, which according to one person interviewed by The Herald, isn’t necessarily a bad thing:

Film-maker and critic Mark ­Cousins, who helped Chomet set up his Edinburgh studio, has seen several extracts of the film. “We should be very excited about The Illusionist,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t originally set in Scotland, the end result really is quite Scottish. It has a real feel of the marmalade and bracken colour of Mull in the autumn. The screenplay was one of the best that I’ve seen. This could be a ­classic of Scottish cinema.”

(Thanks, Martin Gornall and Florian Satzinger)

  • I am very excited about this one.

  • T M

    I’ve been looking forward to this film for a while now. Any word about a wider release?

  • Dito!

  • I’m very interested in seeing this movie. I’ll see if it’s going to play here in Seattle. I liked Triplets of Belleville quite a bit.

  • Can’t wait!!! Hopefully more creator-driven (as opposed to producer/financier driven) animated features like this will be made. Just thinking of the possibilities gives me the g-bumps.

  • Mr. Pricklepants

    “I’ve been looking forward to this film for a while now. Any word about a wider release?”

    It appears that the date of May 5, 2010 is set for France, according to the distributor’s website

    Hopefully an international release will follow not too long after.

  • B.B.

    Well, I’m suddenly looking forward very much to this. I lived in Edinburgh for awhile and if they manage to make it half as beautiful as it is in real life, this will be a very pretty film indeed.

  • Redkanary

    So Mr. Hulot goes to Scotland? I’m a little taken aback, as I always associate Tati with France. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the film would be in English, let alone in another country. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get used to the idea.

  • I find this bit to be really interesting:
    “Chomet also chose to mimic Tati’s visual style, avoiding close-ups, preferring wide shots with lots of action happening within the frame.”

    It seems to me like that sort of direction might be easier to do in live-action than in animation.

    Has anyone here seen Tati’s films? They’re brilliant, but you only see a small portion of the film on the first viewing, because you’re expected to decide for yourself where to look (particularly in “Play Time”). This is especially hard for people used to the Hollywood style of film-making where the viewer is led by the nose.

  • I don’t have much to add to the discussion. I’m just wishing for a wide release very, very soon.

  • Finally! Chomet’s new film should prove to be an interesting experience.

  • greg m.

    Yes Eric, this one is driven by Chomet, so let him receive all the praise, or lack thereof! The visuals are a treat!

  • Bucky Stuttershine Jr.

    Hmm. A micro budgeter partly animated by a staff of Korean animators, partly a French crew and partly a Scottish crew. I can no longer maintain an erection when thinking of this movie. I’m pre-disappointed.

  • Bob Summer

    The film is based on an unproduced script that the French mime, director and actor Jacques Tati had written in 1956 as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter in collaboration with long term writing partner Henri Marquet between Mon Oncle and Playtime. The main character is an animated version of Tati, personally animated by Chomet. The plot revolves around a struggling illusionist who visits an isolated community and meets a young lady who is convinced that he is a real magician. The film will be set in Scotland in the late 1950s. According to the director, “It’s not a romance, it’s more the relationship between a dad and a daughter.”

  • Jpilot

    From the article:

    “He set up Django Films in Edinburgh in 2006 and assembled a team of artists to animate by the relatively antiquated method of drawing by hand, despite digital now dominating animation since the success of Pixar films such as Toy Story.”

    The perception of traditional animation by some people in the press never ceases to amaze me. They really feel like the “antiquated method” of traditionnal animation needs another wield of the sledgehammer to the head in order to drive the point across that no one should still draw animation in the age of the iPad. Thanks a lot. Come to think of it, in the age of video news no one should read printed news either, it’s so antiquated.

  • Bob Last

    Hi as Producer of the film i can confirm that the film received no Scottish based film incentives or subsidies, the motivation for transposing the film to Edinburgh and the West Coast of Scotland was entirely a creative one, and yes some in betweening but not assisting was done in the final stages in Korea.
    Bob last

  • Bob Summer

    “This could be a classic Scottish Film”? Eh…..the original Tati story has absolutely nothing to do with Scotland and according to blogs of guys who worked on it at Django not one artist from Scotland was employed. Chomet said the local talent pool did not have sufficient skill to meet his needs. Begs the question that with no in incentive why set up a studio in Edinburgh in the first place?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Yeah it did seem kinda pointless there Bob. In the end, it’s all about money.

  • @Bucky Stuttershine Jr.: Regarding the budget, the original “Triplets” cost much less. Doesn’t seem to have affected it. But it’s a shame that they let the “Triplets” team go their separate ways after the film was done, instead of being able to start work on the next film immediately. I too have read that Chomet was disappointed by some of the work that was done by others on this film.

  • Henry Rouse

    Chomet has been working on The Illusionist since 2004

    Six years to make a follow up to Triplets! This is ether going to be amazing or something quite massive must have gone astray in production.

  • Bucky Stuttershine Jr.

    @ Niffiwan-

    Ooo. I did not hear that. That’s too bad.

    All my bitching aside, there is no way in hell I’d miss this movie. Triplets put him on my permanent hit list. He’s have to release a half dozen lousy films before I’d give up on him.

  • Paul

    the film will surely set a precedence in terms of visual style, no doubt about that, looking at the visuals available its a step above les tripletts and most other animated films out there…

    though i guess with all films (as it should be) story is key, so ill be looking forward to seeing how it fares once it hits the cinema…

  • Am hopelessly excited about this. Everything else is irrelevant by comparison.

  • David Nethery

    Henry Rouse said:
    “Chomet has been working on The Illusionist since 2004. Six years to make a follow up to Triplets! This is ether going to be amazing or something quite massive must have gone astray in production.”

    @ Henry Rouse –
    Chomet himself with a small development team may have been working on it since 2004 (and he was doing other stuff during that time , working on some commercials and developing work on another movie, “The Tale of Despereaux”, which he eventually dropped out of and was taken over by another studio ) , but the vast amount of production work on “The Illusionist” was done from 2007 – 2009 . Two years to make an animated film is not unusual.

  • Simon Grey

    Wasn’t Chomet sacked from “The Tale of Despereaux” by Gary Ross as he was “diverting” money paid for its development into “The Illusionist”?

    Didn’t Chomet then have a very public dispute with Ross over credits on Despereaux trying to make out it was all his idea totally neglecting the fact that the book was written by Katie DiCamillo.

    Chomet in my opinion is very over rated very little, if any true creatively exists in his work he just selectively borrows from the past to create a mishmash of idea’s in a competent sort of manner.

    I guess he will claim to have wrote The Illusionist and not the great Jacques Tati.

  • kat

    @Niffiwan – lol the (Animation) world is a very small thing, Greetings from Germany.Thanks for your Youtube Channel. Okay I can Russian :D , but the subtitles are very important for other people.

    And I hope that The Illusionist gets a release here.

  • Billy Wrights Boots

    I expect all the eminent Tati fans are falling over themselves to praise this movie?

  • Simon Grey

    Bob Last. “We’re taking advantage of the UK-wide tax credit but there are no local subsidies of any kind in the film.”

    Are “Tax credits” not an incentive?????

  • Steve Allington

    Sylvain Chomet on being dismissed from the Tales of Desperaux “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.”

    Will Sylvain Chomet apply his high moral to The Illusionist our will he plagiary squeeze Tati dry throwing aside the real-life human story behind one of cinema’s all time greatest visionaries script?

  • Boe Jogg

    worked on the movie….visually, it’s really a piece of art. Going by what the animators and other artists have crafted each shot and Sylvain Chomet’s unique style. Let’s hope this breathes a lot of life into 2d animation and many more such original projects are funded and reach the larger audience.

  • Bob Last

    ref: Simon Grey

    The tax credits he refers to are a UK not Scottish incentive and not contingent on creative factors- they had nothing to do with the location of the film in Scotland.

  • Tracey Watford
  • Billy Wrights Boots

    It’s alright, Dave Styles is returning to Scotland with all his unpaid English taxes, winnings/loses at pool, a pair of moulded studded boots and Dave McMeekans scalp!

    Forza The Bay!