Louis Jacobée imagines “adaptation as (re)creation” at Cartoon Springboard

28/10/2022 – The keynote speech focused on four case studies with adaptations from books or comics: Lastman, PJ Masks, Toby Alone and In the Dark and Mysterious Forest

Louis Jacobée imagines “adaptation as (re)creation” at Cartoon Springboard

Louis Jacobée during the conversation (© Cartoon)

On October 26, Cartoon Springboard hosted a keynote speech in Madrid by Louis Jacobée, director of film and TV rights at Éditions Gallimard, a subsidiary of Groupe Madrigall and the third largest publishing house in France. His contribution, entitled “Adaptation as a (re)creation: Four Different Ways for a Book to Get Animated”, focused on four case studies: the 2D series Lastman of 26×13 minutes, the 3D series PJ Masks of 52×12 minutes, the 2D 13×52 minute series Toby Alone and the feature film In the Dark and Mysterious Forest.

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“Why talk about adaptation? […] Most European animation programs are edits and represent half of the animated TV programs broadcast in France. As an animation scriptwriter or graphic designer, you could be the author of an adaptation,” explains Jacobée. He pointed out that sometimes there is “the temptation to first write a book, then make it into a movie or TV series,” which is really the same as disguising an original as an adaptation. He asked the audience, “But does it make sense to write the book sooner? Is that a step or a detour?”

Jacobée states it’s “a creative move” because it takes fewer people to be convinced to get your story/concept where you really want it, it’s cheap to write because you’re free to create so many characters and backgrounds if you want, it enhances your concept/story by giving it a “complete form” and you can get feedback from readers. But he added that it’s “a strategic move” because you can serve an audience or a community for the movie or TV series, meet producers with the publisher who supports you “as an ally” and make sure that you remain the most important creative person. of your project. “It’s also a long – albeit exciting – creative detour,” he concluded.

Next, Jacobée turned to Lastman, based on a 12-volume French manga series published by Casterman from 2013-2019. In this case, one of the manga authors, Balak, worked with the other screenwriters on the script for the series to ensure consistency and coherence. Among the hurdles the team faced was the absence of previous adult animation case studies on TV, as Lastman played a sort of “groundbreaking role,” the lack of a French shōnen audience, and the presence of professionals with almost none. experience in animation. The book happened to be a strategic move, but it wasn’t written to be adapted, and it wasn’t intended as a shortcut to writing the series.

Based on a two-part fantasy novel written by Timothée de Fombelle and published between 2006 and 2007, Toby Alone required the creation of “the entire graphic universe to turn it from a tween novel into a 12-hour animated saga”. By 2016, the 600-page book had been translated into 29 languages ​​and had sold more than 400,000 copies. The main obstacles in adapting it were the unusual format for writing a series, the book’s 10+ target audience that is too old for animation, and the complex universe, with verticality and scale issues that can only be dealt with in the book. few black and white photos and scant descriptions. The writing room eventually rewrote it for a 7-9 audience, with the Fombelle guiding the various steps of the customization process.

In the case of PJ Masks, the team had to “bring the concept of a children’s book series to an action superhero series”. The premise was the idea that preschool superhero series were missing from the market and thus presented a potential commercial opportunity. The main challenges were adapting short stories to a longer series format, working with 2D paintings on an action story, and adapting the character design from the books to strike a chord with the desired audience. During the writing process, the writing room decided to start each episode during the day and solve the main characters’ problems at night, while the original book series only takes place at night. The characters were made more “ambitious” for preschoolers from around the world. The creative team consisted of several talented directors and screenwriters hired from Disney onboard, who worked closely with Romuald Racioppo, creator of PJ Masks.

Finally, speaking of In the Dark and Mysterious Forest, Jacobée described the process of transforming “a luscious comic book into a CGI feature”. One of the challenges in adapting it for the big screen was the too dark humor for the target audience and the story that was structured in short chapters and separate units. For example, the writing team managed to give it a “narrative unit” by, for example, adding a recognizable antagonist, filling in the gaps left by the original book, and choosing to keep a mix of CGI and 2D sequences. .

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