“Triplets of Belleville” Director Sylvain Chomet Has Switched to Live-Action Filmmaking

First it was Brad Bird. Now Sylvain Chomet, the director of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist, has switched over to live-action filmmaking. Chomet’s feature debut, Attila Marcel, will premiere tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is described as follows:

Paul is a sweet man-child, raised — and smothered — by his two eccentric aunts in Paris since the death of his parents when he was a toddler. Now thirty-three, he still does not speak. (He does express himself through colourful suits that would challenge any Wes Anderson character in nerd chic.) Paul’s aunts have only one dream for him: to win piano competitions. Although Paul practices dutifully, he remains unfulfilled until he submits to the interventions of his upstairs neighbor. Suitably named after the novelist, Madame Proust offers Paul a concoction that unlocks repressed memories from his childhood and awakens the most delightful of fantasies.

Chomet, who had earlier dabbled in live-action with a segment in Paris, je t’aime, explained the switch to live-action in an interview with the LA Times:

“I’ve always made animation as if it was a live-action film. I try to make it look almost real, the way it’s edited is not really like an animated film. I try to have continuity in between the shots like live action. I was always thinking of live action but came to live action through animation. That was a way for me to get into live action. Animation is filmmaking, it’s the same thing. And you really train as a director when you do animation. You get the eye, the sense of composition and timing. Live action is very similar to animation apart from animation takes ages and live action goes really fast.”

There’s still some hope for those who appreciate Chomet’s animation films. The Times said that Chomet currently has two features in development—one live-action and one animated—and he plans to make the film that gets funding first.


  • Dana B

    And another one abandons ship…kinda…

    I find it funny when directors say that animation is their stepping stone to moving to live-action. So you started off making drawings, creating characters, spending years to build up your craft and technique on paper or on a computer, just to sit behind a camera on a set with actors. Hmm…ok then…

    I understand from what he says, live-action is far less time consuming than animation. They got creative juices that need to flow without anything holding them back and whatnot, but it’s a little sad to see it go into something you always cherish from that person with less artistic integrity as animated films can offer in a particular way.

  • George Comerci

    Wish he stayed with animation!

  • Adam Buritsch

    So excited! Any chance for a trailer? I’m having trouble finding one.

  • Nikolas

    Sounds like a reworked version of Triplets of Belleville crossed with PeeWee Herman. Instead of being a cyclist, the guy is a pianist. It all sounds very twee.

  • z-k

    On a side note, there’s also the Italian comic artist Gipi who’s dabbled in animation; he ended up directing the live action “L’ultimo Terrestre” (The Last Earthling) a few years ago.

  • Revy

    Welp, that’s a wrap folks. Quality animation is dead for the moment. Brad Bird left years ago, John Lasseter micro-manages Pixar and Disney into the ground, Henry Selick gets his funding dropped, Miyazaki retires… and now Chomet is moving to live action, too?

    I hope you all enjoy Ice Age and Despicable Me sequels, because those are pretty much the only animated flicks we’re going to get anymore.

    I really, truly believe one day this period in animation history will be likened to the dark ages of the late ’70s/early ’80s. I hope another golden age is around the corner, but right now? You would think everyone is out of ideas by the way studios copy each other and make sequels on top of sequels.

    • Moonie

      At least we have Laika.

    • IJK

      This type of post has been made ever since animation came out of the 80′s dark ages and I expect to be re-re-re-reading for the next 50 years.

    • Clanky

      Actually I find the Ice Age sequels and Despicable Me to be guilty pleasures. Sorry :(

  • Capital_7

    Another one bites the dust.

  • Airtight Garage

    Optmistic side is that there is actually no either/or boundary between animation and live action (as bakshi illustrated [just kidding]). Directors aren’t bound to be one or the other. bird will, close to certainly i would think, come back to animation

  • Jed Martinez

    For the record, Brad Bird wasn’t the first animator to make the transition from cartoons to live-action filmmaking. That goes all the way back to the late 1940s/early 1950s, when veteran Warner Bros. animator Frank Tashlin tried his hand at it (with films like “The Fuller Brush Man” with Red Skelton and “Who’s Minding The Store?” with Jerry Lewis). And let’s not forget that animator Terry Gilliam (of “Monty Python”) also went on direct such live-action fare as “Time Bandits”, “…Baron Munchausen”, and “The Fisher King”.

    • Funkybat

      Good point, but I think the complaint isn’t that this is a recent trend so much as that it *is* a trend in the first place. I am puzzled by this tendency of skilled animation directors to gravitate toward live-action. More specifically, I am puzzled by why they drift toward it and often stay there for the rest of their careers. I can understand an animated filmmaker wanting to dabble with live action, just as an exploration of their filmmaking ability, but it makes little sense to me why anyone who loves animation, especially hand-drawn animation, would end up abandoning it in favor of corralling actors on a set for hours and days on end. Animation offers so many more filmmaking possibilities than live action, and as a director you get to shape not only the structure of the film but the very appearance of the characters and environments. When the sky is the limit, why go back to Earth and stay there?

      • iseenothing

        Probably because live-action directors receive more recognition for their efforts.

        Just about every kid and their parents know who Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron are. They also know Tim Burton (animator-turned filmmaker) and are probably aware of Brad Bird as “the guy who directed the new Mission Impossible” movie.

        Very few of them would know who John Lasseter and Don Bluth are.

  • Marco_Sensei

    You have to know that his last Animated movie was a nightmare for most people on the staff… The Illusionist took almost 7 years of production and really hard work for a really poor score in France Box Office. That was clearly too much. Animation work is slow, yes… but that slow ? It can’t work like that. Producer don’t want to put that much time and that much money on a project just for the sake of Art…

    Would be nice though, but it doesn’t work that way…

    And then strangely that’s not a surprise, hearing Chomet saying that : he did it before. It was always a dream for him.

    And well for him, animation was only an Artistic thing. He said in an interview that he dropped his studio in Edinburgh because to keep it up and running would have mean doing some Cash with “uninteresting stuff” like commercials or TV Series. (Like there was no interesting animated series in the World… T_T)

    So yes he was a great animation movie director (but maybe a bit of a Tyran too… ^_^’). Yes it would have been nice to see more works from him… But if he don’t want to do it anymore after 2 films, that’s his choice.

    And because he’s quitting the job does not mean animation is over. Him or anybody else like Miyazaki Sensei… Brad Bird…

    Saying that’s the end of it is just ignoring the rest of the people who keep the good work going, like those who did “Ernest et Celestine” last year.

  • David Nethery

    This
    is not news. Chomet mentioned in an interview a couple of years ago
    that his next film would be either Live-Action or CGI.

    http://www.slashfilm.com/film-illusionist-director-sylvain-chomet-3d-liveaction/

    When Les
    Armateurs producer Didier Brunner made an announcement about a
    “Triplets of Belleville” sequel (“Swing, Poppa, Swing”) earlier this
    year he said it would be CG animation.

    • Tim Elliot

      Sure it’s news. This article was about the premiere, not that production had started.

  • WN

    If you have read the reviews it sounds like he should stick to animation

  • Barking Bud

    Chomet already has dabbled in live-action, as is clear from this wonderful segment he directed for “Paris, Je T’aime” (clip is English subtitled) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PYdbl5naDU

  • Mapache

    At the same time, live action film makers like Wes Anderson, Steven Spielgberg, Robert Zemekis (kinda?) and many others are directing decent animated movies.