The project received one of the longest industry audience applauses at this year’s Cartoon Forum, which closed on Sept. 24.
“Samuel” is backed by CNC development funding as well moneys from the government of Charente in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the French isle of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
Show follows Samuel and his friends – kids around ten-years-old– growing up in the early 2000s. Told from the point of view of Samuel, the series is an emotive depiction of adolescence which mixes introspection, humor and nostalgic songs.
“We’re always looking for new and innovative formats. It is also our mission to detect new creative talents that are able to connect with audiences on digital platforms,” Lili Blumers, the commissioning editor at Arte France’s digital department told Variety.
She added: “When we saw ‘Samuel’ on Émilie’s Instagram account, we fell immediately in love with the character and his distinctive voice – charming, and faux naive.”
The director attended Paris’ Ateliers de Sèvres and Angoulême’s EMCA animation school.
Made up of 21 episodes of 4-minute in length, the series is intended to be released through website arte.tv, YouTube, Arte’s Instagram series account. The producers are also working on a specific version for TikTok, Blumers said.
The animatics shown at the French event suggested a minimalist style charmingly revolving around the kids’ first relationships and life’s discoveries, both acutely observed.
“Children are usually portrayed as cute and endearing, even kind,” writer and director Émilie Tronche told Variety. But, she added, “children aren’t cute, or they don’t intend to be. That was the challenge for me – I wanted things to be natural, not forced, and to convey emotions imperceptibly through gazes, movements, pauses, dialogues and music.”
The 21 episodes will cover five periods – Spring of 5th grade, Summer holidays, back to school for 6th grade, winter, and finally Spring again.
“The inspiration was surely personal, specific to a certain period, the 2000s, but I think it could echo with everyone’s childhood memories, no matter the age,” said Damien Megherbi at Les Valseurs. He added: ”There is something universal about this period that Émilie has caught perfectly – its innocence, gentleness and cruelty, anecdotic moments of life taken very seriously and very serious topics treated in a lighter fashion.” The producers expressed their confidence in the series’ deep connection with children and teenagers.
Founded by Megherbi and Justin Pechberty in 2013, French company Les Valseurs saw early large success with Ayce Kartal’ Oscar and Cesar-nominated short “Nefta Futbol Club.” They won a Cesar for best short “Wicked Girl” and a flurry of nominations with Nara Normande’s “Guaxuma.”
Since 2019 Les Valseurs has been involved in feature films production, making titles such as “The Animal’s Christmas,” “Heartless” and “The Mysterious Gaze.” The company has also diversified into distribution.