Michel Ocelot • Director
by Fabien Lemercier
04/07/2011 - Flanked by his producers Christophe Rossignon and Philipp Boeffard, the master of French animation Michel Ocelot explained to the international press why he chose stereoscopic 3D for Tales of the Night [trailer, film focus], shown in competition at the Berlinale 2011.
Your background is in traditional animation and on Tales of the Night you opted for stereoscopic 3D. In your opinion, is this a passing craze or a revolution?
Michel Ocelot: Firstly, what people take to be my traditional style is simply the result of the fact I had no money. As I get more financing, I try out everything. I made Azur and Asmar [trailer] in regular 3D (editor’s note: not in stereoscopic), then I returned briefly to simple, shadow-theatre images. Suddenly, stereoscopic 3D arrived on the scene and I thought to myself that I’d like to try it out too. My team and I had a lot of fun.
Will it last? In a way, it’s very archaic because of the need for glasses and the limitations of the screen, which are much greater than with traditional images where we don’t think about them. I think that stereoscopic 3D will develop, but at the same time, we’ll forget about it as we did with colour: nowadays, we no longer notice it’s there. The important thing is having something to say, which can be of use to people. Technology is a secondary aspect, but it’s also a source of inspiration.
All your films show your fascination with fairytales.
Fairytales are my language. I’m in my element with them and I can immerse myself in fairytales from all corners of the world. But I never adapt them. I pick at a few elements here and there, I absorb them and I do what I want with them. Besides, fairytales are magical: if we have a problem, it’s very easy to get rid of it. And I can conjure up all the ages of life. But I don’t analyse or calculate: I let things emerge naturally, whilst having a good time and hoping to give viewers a good time. However, I read and re-read the screenplay over and over again, I improve it and, after a while, I shoot the film.
How long did the film take to make?
All the stories were ready as they had been written a long time ago when I had no work. With good computers, good technicians, good animators and shadow-puppet silhouettes, things can move very quickly. The film took a year to make, but without the silhouettes, it wouldn’t have been possible to go so quickly. I also discovered some tricks on the computer, but by keeping things simple, not by trying to impress with my brilliance.
The colours are extraordinary. How did you achieve this?
One of the advantages of computers is that the colour is extremely rich and very easy to manipulate. With each different backdrop, there is a profusion of possibilities and you can run riot with the graphic palette.
Could it be said there is a modern French school of animation?
We’re sort of witnessing the birth of a golden age of animation in France. The schools are outstanding and the students of animation amaze me. In France, we undoubtedly feel stronger and freer to do what comes naturally to us. For my part, I’ve always been independent. I’ve never tried to imitate the Japanese and the Americans even though I like their work.
What messages do you wish to convey through your art?
I’m a storyteller and the storyteller has no need to hide. One of the pleasures of fairytales is having a storyteller and playing with the audience. One of the pleasures of theatre is waiting for the curtain to go up. There’s a whole artificial side which must be retained. I really like never having to lie: what I show you are things I’ve completely made up. I don’t hide the fact I’ve made them up and I even show you when I’m in the process of making them up. That’s how fairytales work: we play together, we make-believe together and, gradually, we experience real things together. It’s also the pleasure of the spectacle, it’s a fascinating world which is good when we know we’re together and that a body is about to open up with something inside. It’s very different and much more than a mere imitation of reality.