French Graphic Novelist Ugo Makes Animation Debut, ARCO

Ugo’s ARCO

I love this still from the upcoming animated feature, Arco. I have to hand it to the French as this looks like something very weird and wonderful–and will live up to its promise. All the little details, so delicate and precise, speak to the dedication of a true graphic novelist, which Ugo surely is as he has a fine and consistent track record of actually creating numerous graphic novels. You really can’t call yourself a graphic novelist without actually being one! So, here is a bona fide bande dessinee artist!

Here is the news on Arco which appeared in Variety last month:

Ugo Bienvenu (aka Ugo), the popular French illustrator and comics author of Préférence Système, is partnering up with veteran producer Valerie Schermann (The Red Turtle, Paris, 13th District) on his animated feature debut, Arco.

An ambitious science-fiction film, Arco is being co-developed and co-produced by Remembers, the company launched by Bienvenu and Félix de Givry, and Schermann at Akaba. The project was previously presented by the Cartoon Movie forum and has already sparked interest from several distributors.

Bienvenu grew up in Guatemala, Tchad, Paris and Mexico, graduated from the Gobelins school, studied at CalArts, and has so far created five graphic novels targeting young adults, notably Paiement Accepté, and Préférence.

He also previously co-wrote and co-directed the mini-series Antman, as well as several shorts, including the animated title Maman (with Kevin Manach) which competed at Annecy in 2013. Aside from his career in comics and films, Bienvenu is also creating exclusive content, including commercials for the Paris Opera, and illustrated works for fashion brands, including Hermes.

Co-written by Bienvenu and Félix de Givry, the high-concept film tells the story of Arco, a 12-year old boy who lives in 3000, a far future where people live peacefully above the Earth, across metallic trees while the planet is in fallow, and are able to travel in time through rainbows. During his first trip in his rainbow suit, Arco loses control and falls out in the past, in 2075, where he meets Iris, a young girl who will help him find his way back to the future.

“The film will say things about the environment but in a subtle way, and will overall have a hopeful and humanistic message, so we could define it as a ‘happy dystopia,” said Schermann, who admits she had always wanted to produce a science fiction film and and joined the project immediately after seeing the first teaser created by Ugo and de Givry.

“I was drawn to the original idea that Ugo and Felix created and I am really excited by the prospect of making a sci-fi film in animation because it allows us to create something that is very ambitious in terms of narration and graphic style, without needing a gigantic budget,” the producer said, adding that the film will hopefully appeal to both family audiences and adults.

Arco marks the first animated feature that Schermann will be producing through her new production banner Akaba, but she has a long track record in animation, having previously worked (with Christophe Jankovic) on many successful animated films, such as Cannes’ Un Certain Regard winner  The Red Turtle, Loulou, and the Cannes-premiering The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, through their banner Prima Linea.

The animation of  Arco  will be created mainly in France at Schermann and Jankovic’s 3.0 Studio located in Angouleme and Paris. Schermann is looking to have the film start production next Spring and is aiming to pre-sell some key territories.

Bienvenu, who is storyboarding the entire film before collaborating with de Givry on the script, says the story of  Arco was inspired by the character of the little girl in Preference Système. He says the film aims to entertain, be visually pleasing and heartwarming.

“Arco bears in himself the hope of humanity and the possibility we all have to envision a better a future, find solutions and reinvent our lives,” said Bienvenu, who describes his film as a “celebration of life.” Citing Disney and Miyazaki as references, he says the main drive for Arco was his desire to make an uplifting science fiction film. “Since the 1960’s, science fiction films have showed us a future that’s scary and doomed, and in Arco, I want to show a world that’s healed,” said Bienvenu.

Through their company Remembers, Bienvenu and de Givry are also developing an animated series about Josephine Baker, based on the graphic novels by Catel & Bocquet. Schermann, meanwhile, has several high-profile films in the pipeline, including Michel Hazanavicius’ (The Artist) animated feature debut The Most Precious of Cargoes, which she is co-producing with Patrick Sobelman. She’s also the producer of Jacques Audiard’s latest film Paris, 13th District which is set to compete at Cannes.

This story originally appeared in Variety, June 19, 2021.

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Filed under animation, Bande Dessinée, Comics News, French Comics

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