Peter Calder talks to the directors of the animated A Cat in Paris, Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli.
You've made 14 shorts over 10 years. Now this, your first feature, is barely an hour long. Why so short?
AG: We developed it with a very small studio and would have cost a lot more to make it longer because we have to pay the animators. We have developed a technique that is very effective and efficient that keeps the costs down.
J-LF: Well the images are very much 2D, but we have a technique that makes the images seem to vibrate and that is what gives the beautiful look. They seem to vibrate even when they are stationary because each image is actually three drawings.
Is that to give the characters more life?
AG: It's not just that, but also because it saves time. Jean-Loup makes the drawings and the animators make them move.
Is that an original technique?
J-LF: Well, it is known among animators but you don't see it much in feature-length films.
AG: Our technique is not so spectacular. We don't do caricatures. You will see that the drawings are very soft-textured. The faces are rounded and tactile. When someone speaks, the facial features don't change for example, so it's as though they are speaking through a mask.
How do you divide your duties?
J-LF: Well, Alain wrote the script and I did the drawing but, of course, we don't work in isolation. We come together all the time.
The film seems like a Valentine to Paris.
AG: Well, originally it was not set in Paris but we decided that it should be, partly because the studio thought it would go better in international markets. But the other reason the issue came up is because the thieves go across the roofs and there is a particular colour and design of the roofs of Paris. It seemed like a natural choice: that way we could use the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
The original title is Une Vie de Chat or A Cat's Life. Does that have a double meaning in French?
J-LF: Not really. We say "vie de chien" ("dog's life") to mean "life's a bitch", so there is an echo there for the French. It means a pleasant life. After all the cat has a pleasant life. It lies around doing nothing all day.
I caught a reference to Reservoir Dogs there in the way you named the baddies.
AG: Oh, yes. And the boat-rowing scene ... remember The Night of the Hunter? The argument in the car about food comes from Goodfellas.
J-LF: We love policiers [crime films]. All young French men do.
What: A Cat in Paris
When and where: Has eight screenings during the Auckland festival, in both subtitled and English-dubbed versions.
Also: The festival also includes an Animation for Kids programme of nine shorts and Danish feature, The Great Bear.