Chomet takes on Pagnol

Epic animation project revealed at Annecy

by Richard Mowe

First image from Sylvain Chomet for his vast project on Marcel Pagnol revealed at Annecy Festival of Animation
First image from Sylvain Chomet for his vast project on Marcel Pagnol revealed at Annecy Festival of Animation Photo: Annecy Film Festival

A long cherished project by Sylvain Chomet, the film-maker who shot to prominence with The Triplets Of Belleville as well as the Scottish-set The Illusionist, has been unveiled with a teaser clip at the Annecy Festival of Animation.

Described by showbiz Bible Variety as “a modern fable,” the biopic will chart the life of Marcel Pagnol, the legendary French novelist, playwright and film director who grew up in Marseille and whose fabled Provence set trilogy Marius, Fanny And César, and other classics, were set in the region.

Sylvain Chomet receiving his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh during his sojourn in Scotland to make The Illusionist
Sylvain Chomet receiving his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh during his sojourn in Scotland to make The Illusionist Photo: Dawn Marie Jones / French Film Festival UK

Pagnol was prolific during the Thirties and Fifties. His books have sold 150 million copies (at a conservative estimate) and have been translated into more than 50 languages. The entrepreneurial Pagnol also built his own studio - an asset he has in common with Chomet, who established his own animation workplace in Edinburgh when he made The Illusionist, set in the capital and other places in Scotland during the Fifties. It took him four years to make, adapting an original story by comic genius Jacques Tati which had been set in the Czech Republic. Chomet moved most of the action to Edinburgh and to a Hebridean island. During his time in Scotland he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh and became patron of the French Film Festival UK.

The project The Magnificent Life Of Marcel Pagnol (Marcel & Monsieur Pagnol) is one that has been followed with a passion by Chomet, who said “I’ve always been a great admirer of the works of Marcel Pagnol so I was immediately taken with the idea of writing and directing the film. At the start I had imagined a film using archive footage with a little bit of animation … but finally it will be completely an animation film.”

The producer Soumache at On Kids & Family (part of Groupe Median), a veteran of the animation world, came on board 18 months ago. He hopes the production will be a biopic on the vast scale of The Aviator or Hugo Cabret. Pagnol's grandson Nicolas Pagnol, who has been responsible for restoring many of his grandfather’s works, has given his blessing.

The production has a budget of some 15 million euros with a schedule to completion of some two years.

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