3D toon's playful edge shows European flair

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If he’d stuck to his training, Lionel Gallat would be more concerned with time signatures or comicbook panels than with storyboards and depth budgets.

The man behind the playful 3D animation of “Despicable Me” was trained as a violinist, not an animator.

The French-born Gallat grew up a fan of early Japanese mangas — “I was especially obsessed with ‘Akira,’?” he says — and animated series like “Dragon Ball” and “Goldorak.” He gave up a musical career to study drawing at the Fine Arts School.

“I really wanted to become a comicbook artist,” he reminisces. He studied animation at the Gobelins school, where he realized he could combine his love of music with drawing.

He spent 10 years at DreamWorks Animation but returned to France as director of animation on “Despicable Me,” the first feature from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. It was produced entirely at Paris-based Mac Guff.

Gallat says on “Despicable Me,” the aim was to make the 3D relatively inobtrusive: “The goal is to pull everyone within the movie, not make you reel away from it.”

But Meledandri gave them freedom to experiment with silly jokes.

“During the end credits we went a little bit more overboard with (the 3D), to play it more ‘in your face,'” says Gallat. “But since the process tends to attract attention to itself, we kept it for when after the climax of the story has been reached.”

Gallat is already working on Meledandri’s next animated comedy, “The Lorax.” He is also looking forward to his directorial debut with a science fiction short he describes as a “hybrid of Japanese and Hollywood aesthetics.”

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