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ANNECY 2020

Ben Stassen • Co-director of Bigfoot Family

"The challenge is to appeal to children without alienating their parents"

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- We met with Belgian director and producer Ben Stassen who’s presenting his 9th feature film Bigfoot Family (co-directed with Jérémie Degruson) in competition at the Annecy Film Festival

Ben Stassen  • Co-director of Bigfoot Family

Cineuropa made contact with Belgian director and producer Ben Stassen, who is presenting his 9th full-length film Bigfoot Family [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ben Stassen
film profile
]
(co-directed by Jérémie Degruson) - the follow-up to the adventures embarked upon in Bigfoot Junior [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ben Stassen
film profile
]
3 years ago - in competition at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Once again, nWave has proved its prowess in the field of mainstream 3D animation at both European and worldwide level.

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Cineuropa: What made you want to make a sequel for Bigfoot Junior?
Ben Stassen:
It’s not easy making sequels. We’re not that big a company; we use the same collaborators on all of our films and there’s a risk that they’ll get bored of reanimating the same old characters in the same old settings. So we have to introduce lots of new elements!

But what really made me want to make a sequel is the fact that, out of all of our films, these are my favourite characters. Also, I loved working with Canadian screenwriters Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker who wrote the first film, and I wanted to do it all over again.

Do these characters and the subject-matter help you to reach a wider audience?
Yes, there’s a committed ecological message in the film, which speaks to everyone. This type of project takes three years to make, and our subject tied in with young people’s commitment to combat climate change. We weren’t looking to surf on a wave; we were eager to go down that path. I hope parents will like it as much as youngsters, for its humour, its mastery of the 3D form, but also for the wide spaces and backdrops that have been created.

There are also a number of spectacular high-speed car chases!
We wanted to create a huge variety of backdrops, from the vast, icy expanses of Alaska to underground environments and the wild river. We wanted there to be a lot of action, and to bring in new characters. We used the first film as our starting point to build a meatier sequel, in terms of the décor just as much as the action and characters. We need to appeal to children without alienating their parents.

It’s also an adventure film. What were the greatest challenges you faced, in technical and 3D terms, in particular?
We’d already negotiated most challenges, to one extent or the other, in other films. We had our fair share of hairy animals in Bigfoot Junior and The Queen’s Corgi [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ben Stassen
film profile
]
, and of large backdrops in the former. We’d already worked with water in Sammy’s Adventures [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
… We weren’t moving forwards blindly, whereas for our next film Chicken Hare, we’ll have to take on a real, new challenge: portraying a large crowd, a thousand or so people. Either way, the team did an extraordinary job. You have to remember that, here, films are made by around a hundred people, while our American counterparts make the same kind of films with 500 people, and a whole other budget to boot. We push things further every time and that’s a real achievement.

The film’s release has been announced for 5 August…
Yes, it’s a bit of a worry to be honest. It’s an opportunity, but if the big, American studios aren’t going for it, maybe there’s a reason? We’ve released three films in the summer with varying degrees of success. Not to mention the fact that we don’t know whether people are ready to return to cinemas after the virus. As it stands, the film has been sold across 50 territories; the only two large territories yet to be conquered are the US and Japan. But its release was actually scheduled for the beginning of August in quite a few places, so maybe we’ll see a few releases directly on VOD…

What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Our next film Chicken Hare is an animated work; we’ve already recorded the voice-overs in Los Angeles. It will take us until the end of 2021, at least. We do have another project, but instead of launching it in autumn as we usually would have done, we might not launch it until early 2021.

Going back to Chicken Hare, it’s a brilliant project which was developed by Sony Pictures and which we subsequently picked up. It’s an Indiana Jones animé of sorts, with lots of humour; it’s really sophisticated with a huge number of crowd scenes in particular. Our partnership with Sony allows for the option of distribution in the US, which opens up bright new horizons for us.

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(Translated from French)

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