Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Fantomette

You can never go back home again.

I never fully really understood that until I worked on Fantomette.

Remember when I mentioned that when me and my 2 friends left Heavy Metal for Fantomette, we felt that the "good times" were back?

That was partly true.

But not really.

We had a great time working on Bob Morane, not that it was not challenging, but it was a fun challenge, and we had a great group dynamic while working on Bob, and now that we were back at the studio where we made Bob, we thought that we would be having a great time once more.

Sadly it does not work like that.

We had some good time.... some fun parties.... a better atmosphere in the studio.... but we had some production problems that we did not have on Bob.

To begin with.... we were sold the idea that we would be making even more money then when we were working on Bob because we would be reusing a lot of artwork.

That did not really work like that.

There are 2 kinds of reuses.

"Partial reuse" and "Full reuse".

"Partial reuse" is a scene where we reuse some already existing artwork, and where we still need to produce some new artwork. For example we reuse the BG (background) and a few poses, but still need to draw some more new poses.

"Full reuse" is when the whole scene is reused as it is needing no aditional artwork.

We were still paid full price for a scene that was a "partial reuse". But for a "full reuse" scene, we would not get one red cent.

So essentially, the studio were the ones making more money (or at least saving money) from most of the reuses.

But also... the first few episodes of Fantomette had A LOT of crowd scenes. And even worse, a lot of crowd scenes with multiple poses.

Writing the word "crowd" takes about 1.3 second.

Drawing a crowd takes a lot more then 1.3 second.

And drawing a crowd once is already time consuming. Imagine now having to draw the same crowd twice because the scene needs 2 poses of that crowd. Now imagine with 3 poses. 4 poses. Etc.... I'm sure you get the idea.

I specifically remember a scene where there were 13 characters and all of them were moving. And there was 9 poses.

So that meant drawing 117 characters for ONE scene.

And the first few episodes had a truckload of such scenes.

Only after much complaining from our part did they start planning the storyboard stage differently so that there would not be that many crowd scenes or that many scenes with something like 15 poses.

This is something we did not encounter on Bob. Not that Bob was an easy show to work on.... it was not.... but Norm LeBlanc, the director on Bob, made a lot of smart choices.

There were some tough scenes on Bob Morane, but Norm would make sure that there would be some easy scenes as well to balance out with the tought scenes. So yes you could get a crowd scene with 6 poses, but you would get a few extreme closes-ups with very minimal BG (like just a blue sky for example).

But such planning was not done for Fantomette.

An experienced storyboard artist or director would have planned the storyboard step so that there would have been not so many crowd scenes or so many poses per scene.

Not sure if it was because of some poor planning, or the Fantomette director just did not care to begin with. I don't have the answers to that.

For Bob Morane, although it was a co-production, the lion's share of the production was done here in Montreal. So the director was right here in the studio. So I could discuss with him about some of the smart choices, and some of the not so smart choices that he made or that were imposed on him during the production.

But for Fantomette, it was the opposite. The Lion's share of the production was done in France, and we were doing just a few things like the layout & posing or the coloring/BG painting.

So unlike on Bob Morane, I never got the chance to work with/have lunch with the Fantomette director. So I have no idea what were his decisions or what were things that he had no choice to do. That he was stuck with.

So after lots of hard work on Fantomette, we finally got the chance to see the first few episodes once they were finished.


We could not believe what we were seeing.

It was crappy beyond belief.

We could not believe how we had worked so hard just to end up with such a crappy show. That we had spent the last 8 months of our lives to produce THAT??


The animation, color, voice acting, and other stuff I can't recall were bad on so many levels.... we could not believe it.

We were still doing the layout posing of the last few shows. And seeing our reaction, our bosses were worried that we would quit right there and then.

We did not quit.

But damn were we dissapointed.

Espescially when it came to the coloring/BG painting.

The coloring/BG painting was done by the same team that did the coloring on Bob Maorane. So even though we were not sure about how stuff like the animation or the voice acting would be, we were confident that visually it would look sharp since it was colored by the same team that worked on Bob. We figured that at worse, it would be as good, or almost as good as Bob when it came to the coloring.

How wrong we were.

So what did we learn from this??

Even if you use the same people that did a great job on Bob. Using those same people on a show like Fantomette does not guarantee that it will be as good as Bob.

If you take the coloring team from Bob and ask them to use a crappy color palette like the one used for Fantomette, although you are using the same people who did a great job on Bob, you will still end up with a crappy result thanks to the crappy color palette that was chosen.

And to make it worse... the early color samples done while developping the style of the series which I included a few samples in this blog) weren't bad. So it makes it even more strange about what went wrong along the way.

Whenever I see the animated "The Batman" TV show with some strange color choices sometimes, like some burgendy or neon green sky, I can't help but think about the poor color choices on Fantomette.

Anyway... untimately.... we ended up with one crappy show which as far as I can tell played on TV for about half a season and was never seen again. Thank God.

It happens.

So Fantomette was a bumpy ride.

It started with a few episodes that were a nightmare to work on. Then it was better with later episodes. But in the end, we were very disapointed with the final result.

So what after Fantomette??

Did I leave after the layout & posing was done??

Be here next time as I explain what happened towards the end of Fantomette.

Until then. ;)

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