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The Gobelins school : animation at its best

“Shark Tale”, “The Triplets of Belleville” and “Kirikou and the Sorceress” are but some of the achievements of the graduates of the Gobelins School, who have worked on several of the world’s most successful animation features. This highly reputed school of animation unveils some of its imaginative trade secrets…

There is certainly to need to force your way in to the Gobelins School! The institute is a human anthill of enthusiastic professionals thrilled to discuss their work and show off the classrooms of students hunched over their computers, busily creating astonishing characters and lavish décors, or to “ooh and ah” with visitors at the incredible student drawings lining the walls. That’s because the faculty of the Gobelins School of Animation are very proud of their students. Indeed, their protégés have infiltrated studios worldwide and flooded movie screens with their work, helping spread the school’s reputation to the four corners of the planet. One of these wunderkinds is Eric Bergeron, director of “Shark Tale”, the film released by American studio DreamWorks, founded by Steven Spielberg, where many other of the school’s animators are also hard at work. The worldwide success of such TV series as “Code Lyoko”, featuring characters created within the walls of the Gobelins, has also largely contributed to the school’s repute. And now, for the first time ever, some of the school’s graduates are even being admitted into Japanese studios - the temples of animation. And while their numbers remain limited, this is not due to a lack of technical skills, but because all applicants must speak Japanese!

Located at no. 73 Boulevard Saint-Marcel, in the 13th district of Paris, the school originally provided instruction, some 72 years ago, in “women’s crafts”, i.e., activities involving straw hats, feathers, lace, and so forth. The Gobelins later began offering course in printing, photography, graphic arts and multimedia design, a discipline in which 16 handpicked students receive cutting-edge training and learn to design interactive products, websites and CD-ROMs. These students pioneered video games on mobile phones, currently a booming industry, and for the second time, have made off with Europe’s prestigious EUROPRIX “Top Talent Award”.

Featuring basic and continuous training and internships, the Gobelins provides instruction, in Paris and at another location, to 650 students with different backgrounds and artistic sensibilities. “We are firmly committed to the notion of team work and to the pooling of different artistic environments. This is one of our greatest assets”, emphasises Gobelins director Tristan Gillouard.

The main training provided is in animation, a discipline that has developed considerably over the years. Communications director Jean-Pierre Le Bourhis describes this remarkable success story: “When some 30 years ago the animation film industry began to take shape, we were the first to provide instruction. The School subsequently kept up when animation really took off in the 1980s, due in part to the increase in the number of youth-oriented TV channels and shows, making France the leading producer of animated features in Europe, and the third worldwide”.

Operated by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Gobelins School has always kept a finger on the pulse of the needs of companies, always well represented on its governing bodies - an affiliation that has helped ensure low tuition fees and record-breaking job placement rates for graduating students. “We have always kept up with technological breakthroughs”, adds Eric Riewer, head of the film animation department. “Today’s movies are predominantly 3D features created on computers. We provide training for animators, the least common job in animation and also the most difficult, as it requires specific techniques, skills and expertise. Our students each have their own specialisation, but they can also adapt to other graphic environments and integrate any design chain with remarkable rigor and technical competency”. However, because 3D does not replace artists, creative talent continues to be showcased: “We have never turned our backs on our initial area of expertise: drawing”, points out Eric Riewer.

While the students of the animation department can all begin and realise films, they are also incredibly talented sketchers! The ability to draw is in fact the School’s main selection criteria, narrowing the playing field of admitted students down to 25 (out of an initial 850 applicants!). Often art school graduates, these happy few are admitted to the prestigious Gobelins School, where everything possible is done to ensure that these budding geniuses become masters. The School provides the best equipment as well as the best instructors in France and the world over, such as Glen Keane of Pixar, creator of “Tarzan” and “The Incredibles”. The establishment’s very specific instruction method, based on gradual exercises, promotes the development of student creativity - as proven by the school’s famed short-features, each one a gem of poetry, originality, conciseness and humour, produced for the opening ceremony of the Annecy Festival, the world’s largest animation festival. Gobelins students always make off with countless awards, including animation’s most prestigious prize, handed down by the Los Angeles judges panel - it must be that special “French Touch”, n’est-ce pas!

Written by Sylvie Thomas
taken from Actualité en France Série n° 66 / 07 (magazine of the ministry of Foreign Affairs)


Gobelins School : www.gobelins.fr