Le Chat Noir

Following the lead of Gobelins and other French animation schools, Lycée technique des Arts et Métiers in Luxembourg has began to make their student produce animated shorts in groups instead of individually. They switched over to the group productions in the 2006-07 school year and have posted their first batch of group-produced student films online.

The short below, Le Chat Noir, caught my eye while leaving me more than a little confused. It’s made by Xavier Gorgol, Rony Hotin, Sébastien Genre and Yoann Robert. Please feel free to offer your explanation of the film in the comments.


  • http://gogopedro.blogspot.com PEDRO

    Yeah, I am not sure what just happened outside of what I just saw.
    Confused.

  • Linq d’Hayes

    It’s better to see something reaching to be Sylvain Chomet than “The Kids Next Door” any jour de la semaine.

  • red pill junkie

    The absinthe-induced hallucinations of a parisian prostitute?

    Ok, I admit it, I’m clueless too ;-)

  • http://www.grusworld.net Gru

    Wow! Xavier Gorgol is this year in LaCambre School of Visual Arts, in Brussel, where I’m a student too (www.lacambre.be).

    I’m happy for him that his movie got known across the ocean, it’s a kind of honour to have your name on cartoon brew :)

    Well, I’ll tell him to come here answer the questions you could have.

  • Hulk

    That’s the ‘French-est’ cartoon I’ve ever seen. All it was lacking were some white surrender flags. (kidding!) Seriously though The drawings and production design were great but I had not idea what was going on. The girl’s voice and the sound design in general were annoying. To give the film makers the benefit of the doubt I can’t help but wonder if this is a small piece of something larger. If so I’m curious to see the rest. If not then it’s just bad storytelling.

  • http://beesbuzz.biz fluffy

    It is certainly better to have a completely mute character than one that’s supposed to be a girl but sounds like a guy speaking in an annoying falsetto.

  • http://www.fattylees.com FattyLees

    “The absinthe-induced hallucinations of a parisian prostitute?”

    That’s what I thought. Whatever the hell it was, I liked it.

  • robiscus

    yeah, mute the volume and watch it with a selection of your own music. good god that vocal track is terrible.

  • Mitch Kennedy

    Haha Who cares — it’s completely entertaining!

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    It’s obviously a Vote Obama ad. Sheesh, get with the program people.

  • Tom Pope

    Miss Piggy texted. She wants her voice back.

    I must add, however, that I do appreciate the look and the obvious effort. These folks could produce something great if well steered.

  • Gobo

    I can only guess that it was some sort of tribute to the famous Chat Noir cabaret, with a prostitute/cabaret girl hallucinating or pleading with the titular cat to take her away (??)

    I dunno. She sounded just like the girl from Kung Pow, voiced by Steve Oedekirk, though.

  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    What’s gonna happen when all these incredible students become the guys with $20 million+ to direct a feature? We’re gonna have at least 1 or 2 more Sylvain Chomet’s, and he’s one of the most amazing feature film makers of the last decade.

    Anyway, I always love the work from Goeblins and this film as well. Obviously, student films have rough edges. But it’s amazing the things they do with their “first” films: that woman’s caboose: the way it bobs behind her, it’s a walk that works fine and you almost never see a foot. Is everything here perfect? No, but there’s more invention per square inch than in a lot of animated films, student or otherwise. Awesome work. These guys are not that far off from making features we’re all gonna be salivating over.

  • amid

    Tim: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You’re absolutely right. It’s not perfect, but there’s an attempt to push forward and beyond in this short that I don’t see in typical student works. For all its faults, it’s still a quality effort that I thought was worth a post.

  • http://www.jamesbending.co.uk Jim

    Wow that was great

  • http://michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    The animation was on its way to being very good. The film worked almost as well without the soundtrack, which is quite an accomplishment. And it was drawn well. The story obviously confused people here, but it really was irrelevant to the exercise. I was also sorry to see the backgrounds done digitally. They would have worked better done by hand and scanned in. However, my only real problem was the obvious choice of vulgarity when it came to constantly displaying her underwear and open legs. The immaturity will hopefully go as these students animate more. For now, they animate better than any other student film I’ve seen this past year. They should have little trouble getting a job (if there are any 2D studios out there offering jobs.)

  • http://andynortonuk.spaces.live.com/ Andy Norton

    My understanding of French is a bit rusty (I haven’t learned French since secondary school!) but I think the title translates to The Black Cat.

    I interpret it as a woman who lost her cat, called Pieu-Pieu (that’s the best I can interpret the dialect as!) but finds this mysterious phantom cat (no Cosgrove-Hall reference intended) and is whisked away.

  • http://paramb.com Param Bhattacharyya

    Cool film. Weird but very cool. I thought she wanted to have sex with the cat.

  • http://www.studiosoi.de jakob schuh

    The first of the titleplates explains that the film is a visual improvisation on an Willette illustration called “Les petit Oiseaux meurent les pattes en l’air”. Willette was an inteersting character: One of the foremost turn-of -the-century “graphistes” in France, he did paint (a.o.) the mural for the “Chat Noir” cabaret that Gobo refered to. He was also an outspoken anti-Semite, engaged in Paris’ politics, inviting people to “protest with me against the Jewish tyranny”, claiming “It is not a question of religion, the Jew is of a different race hostile to ours. Judaism is the enemy!”

  • http://paperless-animation.blogspot.com David

    Tim wrote:
    “Is everything here perfect? No, but there’s more invention per square inch than in a lot of animated films, student or otherwise. Awesome work.”

    Tim, those are my thoughts exactly.

    As a student film I think it demonstrates what they wanted to show: here is what we’ve learned in school about how to layout, animate, and paint backgrounds, as well as camera work and compositing.

    To me it’s interesting that they were able to achieve a nice organic traditional hand-drawn look while using Wacom tablets with TVP Animation for the characters and Painter for the BG’s .

    One of the students who worked on Le Chat Noir, Rony Hotin, has completed a short pilot film for French television Canal J ( I think it is part of a shorts competition to choose new cartoons , sort of like the CN and Nick used to do) :

    http://www.canalj.net/espoirs_anim/?v=5

    “Erylize et les Guilis” or “Erylize and the Ticklers”

  • Ryan

    Well, obviously it’s about a woman who gets booted out of some place or other, loses her stuffed bird, looks for it, then gets taken away by a giant cat ghost.
    Duh.

  • http://www.danyboom.blogspot.com dany

    Michael Sporn wrote: However, my only real problem was the obvious choice of vulgarity when it came to constantly displaying her underwear and open legs. The immaturity will hopefully go as these students animate more.

    i think it is people like michael spoorn who need to grow up. there is nothing vulgar about this except the notion in your small, puritanical brain.

    the kids who drew this have a great understanding of anatomy and movement and i enjoyed the dream like quality of the film very much.

  • Michaël

    Andy, re: “I interpret it as a woman who lost her cat, called Pieu-Pieu (that’s the best I can interpret the dialect as!)”

    What you hear is Piou Piou which would be the equivalent to Tweet Tweet, i.e., the french version of a bird call.

  • Hulk

    So Jakob does the cat represent the “hostile Jews” and the Woman represent France?

  • Chuck R.

    Ryan, I think you’ve got it.
    In fact, whenever there’s a color in the title, you know you’re getting the substance-influenced surrealist trip: Black Cat, Pink Elephants, Yellow Submarine, etc. etc. The lady’s hallucinating and calling to a bird ornament. I think we’re supposed to just ride with it.

    I agree that this is a really cool piece. The classic animation principles are all present, but the design and line quality really take center stage. It’s sort of a hybrid between Toulouse-Lautrec and “Witch’s Night Out” The issue of clarity and communicating with the audience isn’t a small one. These guys have their whole careers to iron that out. I wish them well.

  • http://www.studiosoi.de jakob schuh

    Hulk, I just meant to add some backdrop about the piece mainly ad-libbing on Willette’s illustration. Some of us seemed to look for a story here, and the endcredits suggest that there isn’t really meant to be one. I couldn’t be further from thinking this fine little piece needs interpretation, let alone any of your wretched nonsense. The stuff about Willette’s political likings was just a bit of strange trivia. Chill, buddy.

  • http://joinjoinjoum.blogspot.com/ Yoann Robert

    Thank you all for watching our film and for your nice comments.

    I don’t really know what to say. Feel free to interpret the movie your own way. I’m not really sure to understand the story myself !

    i can also add a little precision (I hope you can say that in English) about the backgrounds; someone wrote that he regrets they were done digitally. In fact, most part were hand drawn then scanned and colorized with painter by Sebastien Genre. Only a few were drawn on wacom, if I remember correctly.
    At the beginning we wanted to color the BGs with watercolor, but none of us really knew how to color with that.

  • Hulk

    Jakob: Let me clarify I was being tongue in cheek as well. It’s unfortunate you can’t read someone’s tone on these posts or you would have known that. Maybe I should have put a smiley face after that sentence :) so it would have been more obvious. For the record: I’m Jewish myself and a fan of French animation. I agree it’s interesting trivia. That’s all I was saying.

  • http://www.studiosoi.de jakob schuh

    Hulk, it’s all good, I got you. This ain’t my mothertongue, but it wasn’t lost on me what you were aiming at. Thinking about these young people though, I couldn’t help finding your joke a bit farfetched. But there’s nothing wrong with farfetched really, tastes are different, no harm meant here! best, J.

  • xavier

    Sorry for being so long to post something.

    First, as my friends could have said, it’s proudly that i add more informations about our “Chat Noir” (Rony Hotin, Sebastien Genre-Sanz and Yoann Robert).
    It’s thanks too them that “le Chat Noir” looks like it does : Sebastien worked on the design and with me on the storyboard, Rony worked on all the animation, Yoann on the backgrounds and our good mood.
    It was our first film and i can say that it was a flourishing experience through our 5 month collaboration.

    Of course, it’s a tribute to “le Chat Noir” and all this period of the 1900′s, which i am really interested in. Drawers but actors, singers, painters, even the behaviour of these times is for me a gorgeous well of inspiration and research, beyond all the artists we know, maybe “too much”.

    Willette was a real antisemit man, i knew that before beginning working on this animation, but i’m definatly not in that kind of hate of thought or speech.
    I chose this drawing because it was the starting point of my interest for this period.
    The girl that is represented on the picture of Willette was miss Colibry the youngest of the 5 models that inspired Willette an other famous artists which attented the Montmartre’s cafes and cabarets. So she’s not really a prostitute but more a girl that lived showing off her body… see the difference… ;)

    About the story itself : it’s of course between hallucination and reality.
    The woman searches for the bird she wears on her fabulous hat. But when she calls piou-piou, a big cat answers her.
    We are working on the other parts, before and after; that are called “Le Chat Noir et anecdotes”. We are inspired by a printmaking book named “les fablichonneries” : “porky” tales something like that.
    I hope you’ll have a better understanding of the characters in a world between erotic, mysterious and amazing with what is to come next.

    I have to thank you very much for all your comments, your interest and encouragement. That gave us new forces to work on the other parts.
    Hope to have more of your comments too when they’ll be finished.

    XA