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Are all Animator Directors Control Freaks?

—  Interview with Thierry Marchand, President of the Jury for Panam Anim


Thierry Marchand has only been in China twice: One time was last year when he visited the Fine Arts Academy of Northeast Normal school in Shenyang, and the second time was this year in Shanghai as the President of the Jury for the PanAnim Animation Festival, which is designed for university students to showcase their animated works. Even though the time between the two trips was a short one, But as an experienced director and Oscar nominated animator, Thierry were amazed by the what he observed.


Pascal Chinarro, Co-founder of post house Delapost Paris with Thierry Marchand (Right) in Panam Anim 2014, Shanghai


Animation Education In China Vs In France

Q: What’s the difference between the student’s work here in China and the work of students in France?

A: In China, the students are more likely to follow the style from movies they are inspired so much. While in France, the students try to avoid being too close to what have inspired them. In my school Gobilins, if the teacher commented my works as: “Oh that looks like Pixar”, I wouldn’t take it as a compliment, they were being sarcastic. I think It is a matter of the maturity of teaching of the schools. .

I also noticed that there are a lot more students in one class in animation/CGI specialized schools in China, where as in Gobilins there are only 20 graduates per year.


Q: How do you see the animation China market?? 

A: China is one of the top markets in the world in terms of potential growth. It’s almost the future of animation because the market is so big. Two upcoming big feature animations films: Kong and Dragon’s Nest, are both financed by Chinese investors and created in Chinese studios, wher top-notch foreign animators and filmmakers were hired in the production. China is closing the gap on high quality pictures that audiences expect from companies like Pixar and Dreamworks.


Q: What if Dreamworks opening its own studio here in Shanghai, will that be a threat or a benefit to animation in China?

A: It is a big opportunity (for China) to benefit from their (Dreamworks) knowledge and make it their own. It will bring up the quality. The fierce competition between Dreamworks and the local studio will look like between Dreamworks and Pixar did for the industry globally, it pushes the industry to be better like a “cross-pollinization” effect.


Live Action Film Vs. Animated Film Vs. Commercial

Q: What’s the difference between doing a full animated feature and a full animated commercial?

A: It’s like the difference between running a marathon and running a 100M sprint. The best directors should have the same amount energy in the beginning as in the end. A feature (film) director is the captain of the ship, he has to lead, drive and inspire the crew whenever it is sunny or stormy outside. The team of a commercial film, however, is smaller and more of an organic organization. As the director, you do a lot more technical work, you are more of hands on the creating; whereas in a feature film you are more involved in the development phase and drawing the characters but once the production starts, its rare for directors get behind the computer and animate.


Q: What’s the difference between doing a full length animated feature film and a full length live action films?

A: The workflow of a full animated film is much more complicated and longer than a live action film, mainly because you have to build every asset from the scatch and plan everything up front, whereas in live action, you take whatever the real locations give you. In animation, you don’t have shooting days, but 3D animators needs to do rounds of retouches. A lot of animation feature directors are a little bit of a control freak because he needs to put his hands on small and big pieces of productions. He has to know what he wants from every frame. Whereas live action directors will more likely to delegate requests to supervisors and have actors to bring out the characters without involving the production side.



Oktapodi, Thierry Marchand’s graduate works, nominated for the Best Animated Short film 2009

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