The animation duo from Picasso Pictures talk Toy Story, tinkering and being perfectionists
Animation directors Remy Dupont and Fabrice Fiteni were pulled together from different ends of France, but their complementary skills and outlooks meant that they were always destined to be an exciting prospect as a duo. Gold Cactus’ work is fresh, punchy and full of character, which you can see in their most high profile creations to date, the anarchic sprites Gaz and Leccy. The stars of an ongoing campaign for Smart Energy from AMV BBDO have popping up on billboards around the UK for many months and late last year they took over a whole cinema in an electrifying stunt.
LBB’s Jeannie Corfield caught up with the duo, who are represented by Picasso Pictures, just as they gear up for a massive TV campaign this summer. Watch this space… and in the meantime find out more about these rising stars.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kids were you?
Remy Dupont> I grew up in northern France close to Lille. I was always a really quiet and sporty kid.
Fabrice Fiteni> I grew up in the south of France near Marseille. I’m also Spanish so I spent most of my summers in the Spanish countryside. I was the kind of kid who would experiment with almost everything I could. Sometimes it got dangerous – I would steal my dad’s or uncle’s tools to build traps and silly sculptures. I was (and still am) very curious, I love trying to figure out all sorts of mechanisms to try and recreate them by myself.
LBB> Who and what have been your influences?
FF> It’s hard to say, I don’t remember specific people or things influencing me. I think my curiosity has opened up my imagination so anything could be an influence to me. Perhaps my Dad? He was so patient as he sat building some tiny useless things with me. I think he appreciated the process of solving problems to achieve something. I probably have that legacy from him.
LBB> When did you realise that you wanted to work in animation?
RD> As with a lot of people, I was a massive fan of Toy Story. At the time, I didn’t really realise that creating films could actually be a job. I discovered it when I went to the open day at Supinfocom, and I saw how animation films were made. I instantly knew that was what I wanted to do.
FF> For me I think it started with these early Mac Games and bits of software. You could use computers to draw a path, choose the number of circles that would follow it and programme in events along that path that affected the background and colours, for example. I was about eight years old and I didn’t know this was ‘animation,’ but I guess it was a good start in my love story with animation.
But obviously, when Pixar came up with Toy Story, well…
LBB> In the work I’ve seen to date, your style often appears clean, simple and fresh. Is this a style you particularly enjoy working in – how do you feel about more photoreal animation styles?
RD> Thank you! I like working with stylised characters as you have to develop the style and they are fun to work with. I have been a huge fan of the photoreal work of Blur studio. If I had the opportunity, I would be delighted to work on a photoreal animation.
FF> We don’t feel bound to a specific style to be honest. It’s just what we think best for the project we work on. In fact, the story will decide what style we’ll choose. However, we might be attracted by cartoons and comic stories, so naturally we end up with a style that matches this register
LBB> And in terms of character design, what’s your starting point? Do you like to think quite graphically and stylistically or do you use personality as a springboard?
RD> It really depends on the project. Sometimes the characters can be created with just a sketch or sometimes it’s more about an idea.
LBB> We’re big fans of Gaz and Leccy! How has the response been? They’ve been featured in print, TV, Cinema and even a 4D viral stunt
– what were the challenges of developing characters that would work in so many different scenarios and formats?
RD> The response has been quite positive (we hope)! The challenges were to develop their personalities first, and to make sure their design reflected it. They also had to be quite graphic so people can identify them really quickly.
FF> They’re really simple but very flexible - like cute parasites that invade your house and by extension everything you can imagine. Their personality was certainly the main challenge, as these guys are meant to bring chaos into your house BUT you need them for everything to run! So the idea was to make people love these characters, because they’re not against you, it’s just that you need to control them, like kids!
LBB> Cosmic Jungle, the award-winning short film Fabrice directed while at Supinfocom, is visually very engaging. Could you explain to us the concept behind it?
FF> Cosmic Jungle was a project where the goal was to adapt the universe of an artist (Tchikioto) into a CG short film. This artist uses surreal shapes that in principle only function in 2D so it was a big challenge to adapt it into a 3D universe. Check him out and you’ll see what I mean! It emphasises the craziness of his world where everything is just raw and out there.
LBB> What are the advantages of working as a duo? Do you ever take on individual projects?
RD> The advantage of working as a duo is complementarity. We both have different areas of expertise which help us to have an idea of the project in its totality. I still do some freelance work as a character artist from time to time.
FF> I do help friends on the animation side.
LBB> Do you like to hang out outside of work or is it strictly a professional relationship?
FF> We both have families and as new parents, well you know what it’s like...
LBB> France seems to be a breeding ground for super talented French animators and animation directors - how has your style been affected by your French roots?
FF> We think this is just a legend… our style has probably been more affected by USA than France.
LBB> Outside of work, what inspires you and what are your passions?
RD> Outside of work I love going to museums and drawing in quiet rooms. When I have the opportunity I like to go for a walk and enjoy the peace of nature.
FF> I might be a perfectionist so I like to discover things and learn about them from the masters in their field. Inspiration is everywhere! I love science - specifically cosmology - and cooking. I cook a lot.
LBB> What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
RD> We hope good things and a lot of exciting projects!