French Roast - Fabrice O. Joubert

Update: French Roast has been nominated for this year's Oscars along with; "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty," "The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)," "Logorama," "A Matter of Loaf and Death." See how it compares to the Annie Awards List.

Earlier Post: In an 'acting' lecture at the 2009 Gobelins summer school Alexandre Heboyan used the short film "French Roast" (The Pumpkin Factory) as an example. Check out the film.

For anyone interested in a look inside at the Gobelins summer school, I'll post my notes about this part of Alex's acting lecture, referencing "French Roast" and what to observe, as the first comment.


Notes from summer school said...

"French Roast" is a good example of French-style acting when compared to Hollywood-style.

Note there are a lot of things/ expressions happening to do with the area of the eyes. French animators focus on a precision with animating the eye(s) expression.

Hollywood animators may tend toward mouth shapes driving the facial expressions of characters.

(The different cultures "speak" in these different visual ways. French, in general, 'with the eyes' and less words. Americans, possibly more specifically Californians, speak a lot with words and their mouths).

In terms of emotional acting, as compared to physical acting, the character's main zone, or from an audience screen focal point point-of-view, is the head and face rather than the "core" or pelvis. The character's core becomes predominant in acting involving physicality or locomotion.

In an emotional sequence in French animation the story first forms in the facial expressions and head posing with particular attention to the eyes and then builds (subconciously for the viewer) expanding out through the character's body.

In "French Roast", some critics may suggest that eyes as dots may be a limitation to the animation due to the lack of the whites of the eyes. But please make a careful observation that the animation is not limited by this outward concern because the whites of the eyes are actually added at key moments when they are needed (e.g. when he picks up the robber's mask).

Alonso said...

I think I disagree. I think acting is always in the eyes, just that a lot of films coming out of Hollywood are written "smart" (or trying to be) so there's a lot of snappy dialogue filling up the story. But actual acting, where you see a character thinking and feeling and coming to realizations about what is happening, always comes from the eyes. And even the frenetic films like Horton Hears a Who the characters go still when the emotions get very heavy. I think in live action the actors look for every opportunity to bring thought in, but in animation since there is usually not a single actor for each character there's not a consistent approach to when and how to show thinking just because there's multiple minds working on it.

I had been thinking that you needed the eyes floating in the whites to see where the focus was. We humans are so tuned in to such micro changes in aim in the eyes (which is the CG advantage over hand drawn, the changes are smaller then the width of a pencil). But then I saw French Roast and they don't even have eye whites. They do flick the eyes around in their eye area some, but not a lot, and their eye area being less defined without the contrasty white color makes little twitches less obvious. It's undeniable, French Roast definitely has some great thinking and reacting in it, but how are they doing it?

In the making of The Passenger Chris Jones talks about the fact that it's not the eyes but the areas around the eyes (brows and cheeks) that are needed for emoting. And in Nightmare before Christmas Jack doesn't even have eyes or eyebrows, just eye shapes, and he emotes fine.

Or perhaps it can be split further. Perhaps the thinking is in the eye darts and pauses, and the feeling comes from the shapes around the eyes. Think with eye focus, then the realization leads to an emotional change affecting the shapes around the eyes.

Carlos Baena has a nice post on eyes from November 08.

I don't know, just trying to figure things out for myself.

(hope those links work)

Frank said...

Hey Alonso!

Thanks for the great comments. I'm going to read them a few times and check those links.

With Alex (the lecturer at Gobelins) he was observing first hand with having worked on French and U.S. animation (Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs Aliens).

The difference may have been subtle but when he showed video examples of the different styles during the lecture it became clearer.

The 800 pound Gorilla in the room is Anime and how the Japanese use eyes and mouths. I know in the limited animation I loved in the 70's, (Kimba the White Lion and Marine Boy), the characters have large eyes but the animation of the mouth shapes creates big changes and viewing focus.

Alonso said...

I'll happily defer to Alex's greater experience. Do you remember which French films he showed? The only animated French film I can think of off the top of my head is Dragon Hunters which doesn't feel any different to me.

As for anime, I think you have to narrow your style down a little more, since anime stretches such a range from Speed Racer, Dragon Ball z, to very subtle Miyazaki. Otherwise it's the same as saying American animation and comparing Flintstones to Incredibles.

Anyway, it definitely is an interesting thing to look into, how our different cultures seep into our non verbal communication and how that gets transposed into animated characters. Subtle stuff. Makes me think of that last peter and the wolf stop motion short, I heard that the director told her animator's to think of the wolf as female, the director believing that direction gave her a different kind of motion from her animators.

Happy Holidays

Frank said...

Hi Alonso. Alex had some short clips from Jim Henson's Mannumanup (sp), Pixar's Monster's Inc (which was interesting because the following week we had lectures by Kyle Balda who actually animated the sequence we watched), and in the French films he referenced "Burning Safari". There were a few live action vintage silent film references that showed exaggerated pantomime eye movements.

But the main, French, eye movement animated film we looked at in more depth was the film in the post "French Roast".

In terms of anime, your comments are absolutely correct. The name covers a vast range of styles developed over decades. I apologise for the gross generalisation. I guess I was thinking about the work of Osamu Tezuka with early Astroboy and especially Kimba and those big poppy mouth shapes.