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Annecy: ’Cat in Paris’ Directors Prepare ‘The Tales of the Hedgehog’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 John Hopewell

One thing seems certain at France’s 2017 Annecy Festival. Few animation projects will be as exquisitely drawn as “The Tales of the Hedgehog,” the new project from France’s Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli,  animated feature Academy Award nominees for “A Cat in Paris.” 

One case in point: a first concept art image of two kids – Nina, the protagonist, and best friend Medhi – peeking out from behind a beach tree in a clump of woodland spacious enough for its trees to be silhouetted against wane light. 

There’s sense of adventure to the image. But, in fact, the two kids are staking out a closed factory, hoping to steal its owner’s cash stash which they think could be hidden there. True to Gagnol and Felicioli’s “A Cat in Paris” and later “Phantom Boy,” “The Tales of the Hedgehog” is a children’s thriller; and one of its virtues is that its exquisite drawing is not dainty wallpaper but part of a calculated audience impact. 

To be pitched at the TV series/specials section of next week’s Annecy’s Mifa market, “The Tales of a Hedgehog” is “a tale of our times unfolding between childhood and the world of adults” and a “suspenseful social fable,” said Gagnol.

It turns on Nina, whose beloved father has from her earliest age told her tales about a hedgehog. But he is laid off as the local factory closes. In dire straits, unable to provide for his family, he suffers a breakdown. Nina, a resourceful 10-year-old, determines to help him, purloining the money the factory owner is said to have stashed in the factory, having had his finger in its till. 

But here a treasure hunt runs up against a violent reality. The factory is still guarded by its former foreman, a bitter man with a vicious dog. And neither give a rat’s ass about how sweet and plucky Nina is. 

The graphic style draws from classic painting: Picasso, the early Dutch masters, Modigliani in characters’ almond-shaped eyes. Yet direction prioritizes framing and composition. Chalk textures added to the background sets “bring in sensitivity and gentleness, endowing screen images with the richness of illustrations,” they added.   

“We have always played on the contrast between a screenplay which doesn’t shy away from difficult themes and harmonious visuals,” Gagnol and Felicioli said in a statement. 

They added: “The care brought to the colored palette of pictures confers great energy to the image. This dynamism balances and soothes the darkness of the social context.”

Mifa’s TV pitching session takes place June 15.  

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