French-made animation film ‘Yellowbird’ takes flight with home talent

Anglo-Italian director Christian De Vita (right), French producer Corinne Kouper (left) and British composer Stephen Warbeck pose for pictures after the premiere of their film ‘Yellowbird’ at the BFI London Film Festival in London, October 11, 2014. — AFP pic
Anglo-Italian director Christian De Vita (right), French producer Corinne Kouper (left) and British composer Stephen Warbeck pose for pictures after the premiere of their film ‘Yellowbird’ at the BFI London Film Festival in London, October 11, 2014. — AFP pic

LONDON, Oct 13 — A rare feature-length animation film produced entirely in France, “Yellowbird” premiered yesterday at the London Film Festival, a heart-warming tale of an orphaned bird leading a migration across the world.

The story was inspired by airlines which flew thousands of swallows across the Mediterranean in 1974 after the birds began dying en masse before they could migrate due to an early winter.

The main character, Yellowbird, is an orphaned chick who is forced to lead a migration to Africa after he is left as the only bird who knows the route.

Producer Corinne Kouper of TeamTO studios, which is also behind the children’s TV series “Babar and the Adventures of Badou”, said the animation shows the strength of talent outside of Hollywood.

“I think that in France we have the capacity to produce high quality films. American studios often come and steal from us, you might say, as studios often work with artists and young people, coming out of French schools,” Kouper said.

Before leading the “Yellowbird” team in studios in Paris and Bourg-les-Valence in south eastern France, director Christian De Vita worked as a story artist on Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie”.

“The quality of the image and the artistry involved from the whole team in France is of a very high standard,” De Vita said.

“Working with the animators and the animation director and all the team in Paris was a wonderful experience, and I think the result is amazing.”

In terms of budget, “Yellowbird” is a featherweight, made for €10 million (RM4m million) compared to the US$150 million (RM480 million) budget of last-year’s hit Disney animation “Frozen”.

Nevertheless in English, the film is voiced by a strong cast including Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Elliot Gould (Ocean’s Eleven), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire) and Seth Green (Family Guy).

French animator and director Benjamin Renner, co-director of Oscar-nominated “Ernest & Celestine” (2012), created the character designs for the film.

The music is the work of British composer Stephen Warbeck, who won an Oscar for his soundtrack to “Shakespeare in Love” (1998).

Kouper, the producer, hopes that the feature-length film will convince more investors to support such ventures in the future, and feels that the Yellowbird story has a universal theme.

“It’s a nice life lesson, the story of what a character can accomplish — so small at the beginning of the film, but who goes on to achieve much through his adventures and become an adult,” Kouper said. — AFP

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