The great adventure

Feature film in 3D computer animation, Pattie and the Wrath of Poseidon was made with care and love at TAT Productions in Toulouse. Guided tour.

The Aces of the Jungle, Terra Willy, unknown planet, pile… Posters of feature films produced by TAT cover the walls of the entrance to the studio, a labyrinth of large sets lined with armies of computers. We are in Toulouse, in January, in the heart of the city or almost. A company founded by Éric Tosti, David Alaux and Jean-François Tosti in the fall of 2000, TAT Productions first produced short films, commercials and commissioned films before opening its own animation studio in 2007. in the pink city. The trio then embarked on the production of the television unit spike and its spin-off series, In the land of Santa Clausbefore going out, always for the small screen, The Aces of the Jungle: Operation Ice Pack, seminal delirium recounting the adventures of Maurice the penguin-tiger and his improbable gang of super-justiciers which will then be declined in two series and several singles. The success of these television programs, covered with awards, naturally opens the door to TAT’s starting grail: the cinema. In 2017 comes out like this The Aces of the Jungle, the feature film, which is doing well, with more than a million admissions internationally. Since then, the success story has picked up its stride, delighting an essentially family audience with a film every two years…

For now, and just a few weeks before the release of Pattie and the Wrath of Poseidon in theaters, we have the rather quiet effervescence at TAT. In the office where Jean-François Tosti, co-screenwriter and co-producer of the film, welcomes us, humbly enthroned a few trophies, including a very prestigious Emmy Kids Award brought back from New York. Specialized in 3D computer animation, the place accommodates, in all, more than 230 workers. Most are intermittent, although a few dozen enjoy the status of employees. Here, as in any animation studio worthy of the name, the work methodology is hyper-segmented, with a cluster of specialized departments, each working in their bubble on very specific stages of the films.

Line work

At TAT, a feature film generally takes two years to write. Then three years of production. That is approximately a year and a half of preparation of the assets, that is to say everything we need to make the film (storyboard, animatics, graphic research, modeling…), then six months of pure animation (we will come back to this), and finally a year of finishing : lighting, rendering, compositing and sound work… Knowing, of course, that the studio always has several pots on the fire, with departments which, depending on their specialty, are therefore working on different projects at the same time. The day of our visit, three cinema projects mobilize the troops. The graphic research department is busy working on nests to Lovebirdsromantic comedy with birds whose landing is scheduled for early 2026. The film will be preceded, in the calendar, by the release of Pets on a Train, in 2025, the pre-production of which has also just been launched, with a team specializing in the treatment of hair called upon to study the color, density and length of that of each of the animals involved in the adventure of film. At TAT, it will be understood, every detail counts and is treated by specific artists who work on their computers in a true artisanal spirit. Further on, finally, we are busy finishing the Ace of the Jungle 2, which will be released already next August, with the crucial stage of lighting. That is to say that it will be necessary to come and place, in scenes with already finalized animation, virtual projectors, before asking a hyper-powerful computer to calculate the impact of light on all the objects and the characters therein. With the idea of ​​reproducing as closely as possible what the human eye would see in a real environment.

The animators at work at TAT: each character in the film breaks down into a skeleton of boxes or controllers that allow you to direct the different parts of your body. © dr.

Another project is, moreover, being worked on at TAT, and not the least: the animated series Asterix and Obelix: The Battle of the Bosses by Alain Chabat. That is five episodes of 30 minutes each, which should hit Netflix in 2024. We remember that at the time, Chabat had flashed on The wishone of the very first short films directed by David Alaux and Éric Tosti, and that it had been selected as a preliminary program forAsterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra in the rooms. This time, Alain Chabat has decided to rely fully on the know-how of the Toulouse people to concretize his new fixed idea. But that, we are warned, is a defense secret. “It is strictly forbidden to take photos or film. And we really can’t say anything.” We sneak a peek over a few pairs of shoulders busy working and then slip away. Motus.

human after all

A detour through the sets devoted to the 3D animation stage as such allows us to better understand the mechanisms. Here, we work under Autodesk 3ds Max, software common to many studios and within which a whole series of small practical tools are developed in-house to guarantee faster and more efficient work. “At TATT, gargles Jean-François Tosti, our specialty is not so much to invent technologies strictly speaking, but to invent ways to use what already exists to the maximum of its possibilities.” So, for example, huge libraries or databases which are pre-created by the studio’s chief animators within the software and which already contain dozens of body attitudes, facial expressions, hand poses , etc., for each of the characters of the film already modeled upstream. It is then up to the animators to come and tap into these veritable gold mines to make the characters move as best they can in the sets.

Each character comes in the form of a skeleton full of small controllers and sub-controllers that relate to all parts of the body, down to the smallest. One will allow you to control a finger, another an eyebrow, an ear or a leg, the animators thus defining, for each scene, an impressive number of different poses that they will ask the software to chain to create movement . Knowing that the software will very mechanically link one pose to another, without necessarily stimulating a natural movement, for example. It is therefore up to the animators to come and then reintroduce a more realistic intention to the movement, and therefore to reinject the human, the creative, into a process that is otherwise purely computer-based. Each animator has his specificities and strengths. Some may be more comfortable in emotion, others in action. They can have more than 70 controllers to move for each pose just for a character’s face, their daily life often evoking that of ants at work. For each animator, it is thus necessary to count less than 5 seconds of animation finished and validated over a whole day…

The animators at work at TAT: each character in the film breaks down into a skeleton of boxes or controllers that allow you to direct the different parts of your body.
The animators at work at TAT: each character in the film breaks down into a skeleton of boxes or controllers that allow you to direct the different parts of your body. © dr.

The childhood of art

And the director in all this? In creative terms, he is required to print his paw before the actual animation. Everything is played out for him at the time of the storyboard and the stage that follows, that of the animatic. These are the two stages where the written screenplay finds visual form and where storytelling choices are made in earnest. Everything will be drawn there (the quality of the drawing does not matter at this stage) and above all cut out very precisely, the director choosing the angles of view and the values ​​of the shots. This is the model that will serve as the definitive mold for the feature film to come. Then, things slip into the hands of the animators, and the director then spends his time validating or not the things that are submitted to his gaze. He becomes the guardian of the smooth running of the project, the one who ensures that everyone works in the direction of his overall and original vision of the film.

In the case of Pattie and the Wrath of Poseidon, production at 10 million euros (20 times less than the budget of a Pixar, therefore) where a handy and resourceful little mouse from ancient Greece tries to bring back the mythical Golden Fleece in his city, it’s David Alaux who, not content to have co-signed the script for the film, was in charge of its production. The idea for this feature film came to him from his passion for the cult Jason and the Argonauts by Don Chaffey, a 1963 film famous for Ray Harryhausen’s famous special effects. He remembers: “It was basically the film that originally got me interested in animation. As a kid, I couldn’t believe it, I wanted to understand how they managed to give life to all these monsters and skeletons. My dad was moving little magnetic letters on the kitchen fridge to do holiday titles on Super 8 movies, and he explained to me that that was the principle of animation. So, with Éric and Jean-François Tosti, in college, when we were 13, we started making little Super 8 films with puppets based on this principle. And the basis of our inspiration came from these great adventure films: Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad… All those movies whose special effects worked on stop motion animation. With Pattythere was really this common desire and this obviousness to turn again to these universes to tell a story of our own.“An old childhood dream come true, in short.

Pattie and the Wrath of Poseidon

From the start, we are proudly told: “Your film was made in Occitania.” New feature film from Toulouse’s TAT ​​Productions, Pattie and the Wrath of Poseidon is inspired by the famous myth of the quest for the Golden Fleece by Jason and his Argonauts to tell the story of a little mouse from a prosperous city. port who dreams of becoming a great heroine by forming a crew able to make her live one of the most beautiful adventures that ancient Greece has ever known. “Heroes are big, strong humans, Pattie. Not just a little mouse like you.” And yet… Flanked by the cowardly tomcat who adopted her, she soon finds herself cleaving the seas to face a thousand dangers and other mythical creatures that inhabit her journey: cyclops, hydra, baby kraken… With the possible exception of the one or the other false note (in the musical choices and the aesthetics of Olympus, in particular), this joyful cocktail animated by humor and action fulfills its family contract hands down, and slips even for the big ones a reference to Coppola’s The Godfather or to the traditional do-it-yourself sequence of L’Agence tout risque. Friendly.

By David Allaux. 1:36 a.m. Departure: 08/02. 7

We would like to give thanks to the author of this article for this awesome material

The great adventure

Explore our social media profiles along with other pages related to them