Picolo Pictures has unveiled exclusive first-look images for their upcoming feature “On the Run” (“La petite cavale”), currently presented at Annecy’s MIFA Pitches.
The film will see a young male blue penguin, Cookie, who dreams of becoming a dad. Cookie can’t lay an egg, but a volcanic eruption turns his New Zealand refuge upside down and sets a curious soft echidna’s egg in his path. What if this was the little one he had been waiting for?
“At the heart of the film is our wish to tell the story of a family bond,” its director Julien Bisaro tells Variety. Bisaro co-writes with Claire Paoletti.
“That’s one of the major issues for our two characters, who belong to completely different species: Making it work! These kinds of unexpected adoptions can be observed in real life too: a cat raises chicks, a leopard raises a baby baboon and so on.”
“We are interested in showing emotional and creative efforts our characters make to adopt each other. There isn’t just one kind of family, but many different ones.”
Paoletti adds: “We also feel that young viewers can recognize themselves in this image of a blended family, which is widespread in today’s society. The idea is to make it easier for them to identify with our characters.”
The team, which already stunned the audience with their award-winning “Shooom’s Odyssey,” also takes on ecological issues in the film. As the eruption of a volcano causes humans to flee, nature reclaims their home.
“We want to talk about our relationship with animals through the subject of domestication, since Cookie was raised in a shelter run by humans, and about the wild life the characters discover on their journey. About our connection to land and the way we, humans, inhabit it,” notes Paoletti.
“In fact, it’s a way of taking an interest in the living world in all its forms. We want to invite the viewers to think about these questions,” adds the director.
Proving, once again, that penguins are beloved by animators all over the world, the duo was also excited to explore New Zealand and the Maori culture.
“The penguin is as graceful in the water as it is funny and often clumsy on land. He walks a bit like a baby learning to walk. He uses his whole body to take a step, swaying from right to left. It’s great fun to animate,” enthuses Bisaro.
“As far as Maori culture is concerned, it seemed obvious to us that it should be a part of the film’s context. That being said, the story is told from the animals’ point of view. Humans remain in the background.
Indeed, as explained by Paoletti, it was the choice of an animal that motivated the film’s setting.
“The blue penguin is particularly common in Oceania. The echidna, on the other hand, has a more restricted territory. It can be found in Australia and New Guinea. So, geographically, it’s the perfect New Zealand’s migrant.”
In the film, the animal characters won’t talk, instead communicating through sounds.
“They express themselves through little cries, grunts and squeaks. The idea is to avoid anthropomorphizing them too much, even if we do take certain liberties in order to help the viewers understand what’s going on between them,” says Paoletti, with Bisaro adding:
“We played a lot with pantomime when writing and staging. We draw on silent cinema, which allowed us to develop Chaplin-esque situational comedy that dispenses with dialogue.”
But what it lacks in words, it more than makes up for in color.
“The graphic design is in 2D with no outline. It’s like painting with light and shadow,” says the director. “Still, there are also times when the image is more realistic, with less saturated tones. It really depends on the intentions and the register of the scene.”
Currently looking for collaborators, at Picolo Pictures they are mostly “driven by the desire to create,” notes Paoletti.
“Claire and I are, first and foremost, authors. We created our company as a petite boutique to house our films. This allows us to have freedom over our creations and to allocate the time and resources needed in order to make them,” explains Bisaro.
And to tell stories they find important.
“It’s obvious that we are not portraying a ‘classic’ family here. But it seems to me that the best thing you can wish for a child is to be loved, encouraged and protected, and to amaze his or her parents. Whoever they may be.”