Waaaayyyy before I had anything to do with the film TeamTo had approached a hot young director just out of animation school to help develop the artwork of their new film project Yellowbird.
Benjamin Renner came to notice with his short film the A Mouses' Tale which attracted Corinne to get
in touch and try to involve him in the film's visual development. He went on to co-direct the acclaimed Ernest and Celestine which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013.
Benjamin's input is instantly recognizable, his stylization of the anatomical form of the birds and their plumage is something we strived to retain throughout the development and production process and influenced the way we designed and then constructed, painted and rendered the final models and sets.
Here Benjamin gives a brief description of the development process and see some of the artwork which kickstarted the films' visual look.
CDV: When and how did Corinne approach you first to work on the development of the film?
BR: I first met Corinne Kouper in 2008 after she saw my graduation film A Mouse's Tale. She was interested by the fact I had made a film using the point of view of a mouse. She was interested by the graphic ideas and intentions I had put in the film in order to make the audience feel like they were looking the world around them as a mouse. Then she asked me if I could work with the same idea on Yellowbird. She gave me this script about this bird during his migration and I immediatly was enthusiastic at the idea of depicting the world from the eyes of a bird.
CDV: As an artist and designer you seem to have a pretty eclectic style, not settling for one in particular but exploring various possibilities. How did you come to the stylized designs for Yellowbird and what made you focus into this direction?
BR: It was something Corinne really insisted on, she wanted me to have fun and told me that I shouldn't think about 3D and just have fun with the graphism. I started working on a minimalistic way of drawing the character still trying to have charismatic characters. I used always the same shape, a feather shape and tried this way to create the silhouette of the characters.
CDV: After the development of Yellowbird designs you of course went on to Ernest and Celestine. How would you compare the experiences in terms of the artistic choices you made on both?
BR: It was very different of course, the thing is, I was not very confident working on a 3D film, plus I was hoping to use 3D differently. At first I hoped to use 3D as a paper cut animation tool and mix it with a 3D world. Unfortunatly my skills in 3D were too low and I couldn't manage to explain what I wanted. When Ernest and Celestine came I felt much more confident with the artistic themes I was about to work on.
CDV: Your involvement in the film was early on, how do you view the final look of the film now that it is complete, compared to your original concepts and designs for the characters?
BR: It's of course different from the first ideas I had but I'm still very happy to see that the film is very expressive and full of light and comedy.
Even if it was very short, I was fascinated by all the anecdots I learned when I met the ornythologist who came on the film. Everything he said was fascinating and gave us a lot of fantastic ideas for the narration and the design of the film. I wish I could work again on a film with animals someday and once again, enjoy the knowledge of someone who really knows about animals. I think it gives a film a lot of ideas and brings a lot of crediblilty