Not to Scale directors Pic Pic Andre shot themselves into the mainstream with their adverts for Cravendale milk, but before those fantastic little shorts existed, their mad-cap characters and narratives lived as the cult animations A Town Called Panic, or Panique au Village, in their native French. The eccentric, frenzied tales of a cowboy, Indian and horse have always been brilliantly unexpected, and with the announcement of their capers hitting the big screen, I was more than a little excited. To see what all the fuss is about, and whether their plots could last a feature-length, I grabbed the duo for a little chat and got some nice behind-the-scenes photos of the new sets to boot.
Hi guys, you’re most well-known in the UK for your work on Cravendale Milk adverts, which are based on your series A Town Called Panic. Can you tell us a little about the series, before you were commissioned for the adverts?
The idea behind a Town Called Panic first came to us at animation school. At the time, Stéphane Aubier had come across a handful of interesting characters (Cowboy, Janine, Steven, farm animals, etc…) at the local fleamarket and had decided to cast them into his end of year project. This ancestor episode of ATCP was then put to sleep for 10 long years, whilst we kept busy working on other projects, mainly 2D cartoons. It was finally our producer and co-writer Vincent Tavier who rediscovered that episode and, thinking it had potential, put us up to the making of the TV series – and the rest is history!
On Friday your first feature-length film came out, how was it different to making your usual shorts?
One of our biggest challenges was to write a story that would hold the audience’s attention for 80 long minutes as opposed to the 5 minute TV episodes we were used to. This meant adapting and adjusting not only our storytelling methods but also our way of working and animating. Indeed, we tried hard to slow the pace down in order to achieve a steady rhythm within which we could tell a long story. This also implied digging deeper into our main character’s specific personalities so as to make them more distinctive and captivating. Consequently, we also felt the need to develop them from a physical point of view by refining their attitudes and the fluidity of their movements.
Moreover, we realised that if the film was to be shown on the big screen, we had to pay much more attention to the details and depth of the art direction so as to create a richer visual experience. A great deal of effort was therefore put into the design and construction of the sets. Having said all this though, it was essential for us to remain as true as possible to the initial spirit of Panic, namely its spontaneous simplicity, its homemade feel and its childlike absurdity and not let ourselves fall into anything too sophisticated or over-elaborated, which would have ended up being incoherent with the nature of the film.
I’ve waited a couple of questions to ask this, but it’s on all of our lips – how on earth do you think of the scripts?
Our initial inspiration comes from people and events we observe around us in our day to day life: animals being taken daily to the fields, people waiting for their mail to be delivered by the postman, etc. We first transcribe these banal situations into drawings and use them to as starting points onto which we build our stories.
How do you go about translating the crazy dialogue for a British audience? Can you even translate what they’re saying?!
All things considered, the dialogue in the film is rather straight forward and down to earth (and it is precisely this juxtaposition between the normal dialogue and the absurdity of the situations that creates the humor and gives an overall feeling of madness), therefore the actual translation wasn’t that complicated. However, provided the characters talk a great deal and at a very quick pace, the main difficulty was to cut the dialogues down to an amount that is legible in the form of subtitles – whilst keeping the humour and jokes intact.
A harder task yet would have been to make an attempt at dubbing the film, as that would have implicated finding voices with the right tonality and energy to match the characters. Indeed, provided our characters have still facial expressions, most of their personality emanates from their voice.
Finally, where can we see the film in the UK?
Opening 8 October Soho Curzon, Greenwich Picture House, Brixton Ritzy, Islington (Green) Screen, Everyman Hampstead, London Cine Lumiere, Birmingham Electric, Liverpool Picture House, Bristol Watershed, Brighton Duke Of York, Newcastle Tyneside Cityscreen Cinema, Sheffield Showroom, Edinburgh Cameo, Glasgow Film Theatre
Opening 15 October Leicester Phoenix, Oxford Phoenix Gate, Notting Hill, Manchester Cornerhouse
Opening 22 October Little Theatre, Bath, Aberdeen Belmont, Exeter Picturehouse, Harbour Lights, Southampton, Birmingham Mac, Derby Quad, Nottingham Broadway, Norwich Cinema City, David Lean, Croydon, Regal Henley, Barn Dartington
Opening 29 October Waterman¹s Brentford, Flavel Dartmouth
Opening 5 November Dukes Lancaster
Opening 19 November Stamford Arts Centre, Campus West, Courtyard Hereford
Opening 26 November Edencourt Inverness, Warwick Arts Coventry