INTERVIEW. “Little Nicolas”: Amandine Fredon keeps “a child’s look”

Co-director with Benjamin Massoubre of the film “Le Petit Nicolas – What are we waiting for to be happy?“, released in theaters in mid-October, Amandine Fredon was in Bastia for the Cinetica animated film festival, at Una Volta from November 10 to 14. Interview

How to adapt a drawing monument to the screen through an animated film? Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre in co-directing on this project succeeded perfectly with the animated film Le Petit Nicolas – What are we waiting for to be happy?, in theaters since mid-October. A daring bet where the work of Sempé and Goscinny is reproduced in all its poetry, while keeping the point of view of the two authors. All magnified by the design but also by a luxury dubbing provided by Alain Chabat and Laurent Lafitte. Amandine Fredon, present in Bastia for the Cinetica festival, organized from November 10 to 14, tells us about this production selected at Cannes but also crowned with a Cristal for feature film at the Annecy festival. She also talks about her vision of the animated film.

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What led you to work in animation?

I studied drawing. I have always been passionate about drawing. I did an Applied Art baccalaureate before studying fine arts in Angoulême. I then joined the animation school, La poudrière, in Valence, which trains in directing. A school that gives us a small budget to learn how to manage it and make a film. All the speakers are professionals. I also worked with the Folimage studio which was making their first feature film at that time: The frog prophecy. It was lucky and my first job was to color this film.

How was the Petit Nicolas project born?

Anne Goscinny (Rene Goscinny’s daughter) went to see the producers. She wanted to mix archive footage from the two authors with animated sequences from Petit Nicolas. In the end, the archive footage was of poor quality, so they opted to make an entirely animated film to pay tribute to the two authors who are passionate about drawings. The film parallels the story of the creation of Petit Nicolas through the prism of the authors, but also sequences of Petit Nicolas. There are two worlds.

What were the difficulties in adapting the drawings of Petit Nicolas to the screen?

When you look at Sempé’s drawings, you get the impression that it’s simple. But in the end, we realize that he simplifies his drawing and goes straight to the point. But to get to the point, it’s always very hard. It’s complicated to make a perfect line. The first times, the teams drew all the decorations then they were asked to erase lots of lines to manage to look like Sempé. Which is completely crazy. But we had to go through this process to understand his design. It has a kind of false perspective with distorted views. We had to analyze all that to be able to copy it.

You have mixed Sempé’s style with New Yorker and that of Little Nicholas. Why did you make this choice?

It is the essence of both worlds. First, that of the authors who represent reality. We saw a lot of interviews and images of the authors to be able to create this world. René Goscinny is very reserved and tongue-in-cheek, whereas Sempé is an artist who loses his things and drops his leaves. They are two very different characters. We have used Sempé’s references to the New Yorker for this world. When we then switch to that of the Little Nicholas, there is always a white edge on the backgrounds as if it were a page, and the characters gradually fade out. It gives the idea that the characters are drawn and not real. This allows us to switch from one universe to another. We had to invent a whole color code.

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Sempé had time to see the film. What was his reaction?

We have already been able to show him drawing boards before starting the film so that he can validate our copy. He was the first person we showed the film to. He was elderly with health problems. He was very moved by the film. It was very moving.

What is your vision and philosophy of animated film?

The projects that are coming are animated films for adults. I am in this movement. I think about I lost my body, Flee Where Joseph. Films that tackle tough subjects for both children and adults. It’s good that you can use animation to tell whatever you want. The animation also serves to soften the subject, to have a different look. It also allows to create emotion, to work the imagination. It is important.

The Pixar studio is omnipresent when it comes to animated films. Is his influence a good thing for your genre?

When we present the film, saying that they are drawings, people are very happy. In Pixar films, the emphasis is on special effects with a lot of 3D. History takes a back seat. That’s a shame. It feels like déjà vu. There is the hero, the talkative character who talks all the time. It’s repetitive and we fall into clichés. It’s nice to have movies that manage to stand out. And we realize that there is a return to drawing in films. And that’s fine.

What are the characteristics of French animation cinema?

There is a French touch characterized by the drawing, the handmade. There’s a lot of talent. But it’s also because there are a lot of schools that have developed in the animation professions. There are many great projects in feature films or series. We return to serial series. It was lost. There are more people trained on the artistic part.

What are your references in animated cinema?

There are several of them. The short films of Wallace and Gromit made me want to do animation. It was awesome and fascinating. I also really like all the work around Buster Keaton’s humor without dialogue. Everything must be said in the picture. Very visual films with a rather incredible imagination. I really like the special effects of this period. They had to do them at the time of shooting because there weren’t any special effects yet. I really like these very inventive black and white films. Charlie Chaplin also obviously. Anyway, you have to keep a child’s look in the animated film.

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How did you experience the selection at the Cannes Film Festival of Little Nicholas ?

It’s very nice. But we wonder why, we are the only animated film selected. We would like animated films to be highlighted more than fiction films. It was a bit sad to be the only ones in Cannes when there were a lot of great projects.

How far can we go in the message to convey in an animated film?

We can pass everything. The drawing allows this. It’s less hard than filming reality. In drawing, we manage to convey emotions.

In the movie Flee, there are sequences of memories and the characters have no faces. They are penciled in charcoal. It creates an emotion that you can’t necessarily have in live action. There is a more accessible side for children too. We are also really into adult and committed animation films.

The film was screened on Friday evening at the Régent

We want to thank the writer of this short article for this amazing material

INTERVIEW. “Little Nicolas”: Amandine Fredon keeps “a child’s look”

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