When Sony Pictures Animation released “Hotel Transylvania” five years ago, de Pins was devastated. A graduate of Paris’ École des Arts Décos, the French animator had been developing a big-screen version of his hit graphic novel “Zombillenium,” which imagined a theme park operated by vampires, wolfmen and zombies.
“I was quite upset,” de Pins recalls, but his producer actually saw it as a good sign. “Hotel Transylvania” was a surprise hit, which demonstrated that there was an audience out there for the movie. Likewise, stop-motion studio Laika’s success with dark, fantasy-infused features such as “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” has encouraged them even further. “Making a dark film with monsters, it’s become kind of common right now,” says de Pins, who brings a playful, punk-rock attitude to the project, which features original music to match by French band Skip the Use.
After suffering in the trenches of several animation projects, de Pins branched out on his own to make comics, his bawdy “Péchés Mignons” series remains a local favorite, creating the five-minute short “The Crab Revolution” entirely on his own.
By contrast, the computer-animated “Zombillenium” took crews in France, Belgium and the tropical island of Réunion four years to make. Animators manipulated the digital tools to reduce the color palette and strip out most of the dimension and shadows to match de Pins’ signature hand-drawn style, an effect similar to Disney’s recent Oscar-winning “Feast.”
“For every shot of the movie, I took one 3D frame and worked on it in PhotoShop to erase the 3D effects,” says de Pins, who split directing duties with Alexis Ducord, visiting and Skyping with each of the studios. “Alexis was the lucky one because he got to go to La Réunion.” The film is expected to premiere at the Annecy animation festival in June.
– Peter Debruge