Paris, the city now thought to be sickly sweet when it comes to the fiction of high-fashion, adoration and never-ending romance it’s been given, is actually all of these and more. I fell head over heels with the wide avenues and endless array of well-groomed parks- the day-joggers that tend them maintaining a flourish of bright colour and rhythmic steps everywhere you go. During my time there, the thought of returning to the claustrophobic streets and dank politics of Great Britain grew more and more repellent.
The glaring beacon of the Eiffel tower reached as far as my accommodation on the outskirts of the city whilst I contemplated my first day at Gobelins. The most highly regarded school of animation there is, and the setting for the two week summer school programme on which I was embarking.
I must admit some trepidation about how much information can be crammed into a two week period but this was soon trounced on day one following a lecture by Despicable Me 3 co-director, Kyle Balda. The conferences occurred every day from 10 with a small break, stopping for lunch at 1pm. To say they were jam packed is under selling it. Kyle for instance covered story, character, acting, staging and emotion in his 3 hour stint. With enough information on each to be a conference within itself – dense is the word and it only continued from there.
Day two saw the energetic Florent De La Taille (lead animator- Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me 3) explore text and subtext when it comes to analysing a scene- something he would further delve into on day three where he would look at how we might set up a scene.
This began to link in with the workshops- an exercise we had to complete under the supervision of experienced lead animators during our afternoons at the school- something we would complete throughout whilst absorbing the information from the morning.
Yoshimichi Tamura was up next, a legendary animator who worked at Disney for a number of years (Tarzan, Princess and The Frog) and continues to lead an industry standards bar for 2D animation on many productions. He went deep into the symbolic nature of scene depiction- analysing old french films shot by shot, looking at the character motivations and performance. He also covered how much ‘good animation’ is down to thought process over pure talent (although that helps too).
Antoine Antin (L’illusionniste and many, many more) followed with an incredible couple of conferences on body mechanics and some very practical rules and exercises to follow when animating. The meat and potatoes of the two weeks really came out here in what was a word-by-word unmissable delivery.
Finally, one of the supervisors from the workshops gave a fantastic conference on handling yourself correctly and training the ability to absorb every single lesson life can throw at you- using it for both animation and professional integrity. Sami Fecih (Harry Potter, Penguins of Madagascar) carries himself with a truly brilliant, inspiring and energised mentality that overtakes your own sensibilities and takes hold of you uncontrollably. A fantastic end to two weeks of intense training.
I haven’t had time to mention the fascinating mime (but not as you know it) workshops of Robert Bennett, or the guidance of the mesmerising Uriel Mimran and Olivier Dusart from our workshops but rest assured, Gobelins is every bit the legend of animation we all know it as. Beautifully organised and warmly welcomed by Cecile Blondel and Victor Nouchi- I had the most intense and rewarding two weeks of my working career.