This article is available in: French
You have probably heard about the recent announcements from La Cabane Productions, a company known for their work on Mush-Mush, Luce and the Rock. New animated series, a TV special, Mush-Mush season 2: the team is currently working on very diverse projects in terms of formats, visual styles, and target audiences.
We wanted to know more, so we asked Perrine Gauthier, CEO and co-founder of La Cabane, a few questions.
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Luce in the Lovely Land: after a successful short film, an animated series!
3DVF: Hello Perrine! La Cabane announced a lot of new projects right before the Annecy Festival, and we wanted to know more about what you had in store for the coming months and years.
La Cabane has unveiled no less that three projects that are currently being developped! First of all, Luce in the Lovely Land, is an animated series project (26 x 11′, preschool) . It’s an adaptation of the short film Luce and the Rock by Britt Raes. We assume that the overwhelming success of the short (30 awards, 150 festival selections) triggered this new project?
Perrine Gauthier, CEO and co-founder of La Cabane: Yes, it’s linked to both the enthusiasm the film generated at festivals, on television, and also in theaters, particularly as part of the “Vive le Vent d’Hiver” program distributed by Les Films du Préau in France/Belgium/Switzerland, with nearly 100,000 admissions.
And 100,000 admissions for a preschool short film program is quite significant! Similarly, the festival selections showed enthusiasm for this universe.
We really enjoyed working with director Britt Raes, and the feeling was mutual. So we wanted to continue working together. In fact, while working on the short film, we quickly had the idea of creating a collection and producing more shorts afterwards.
In the end, our attachment to this universe was very strong, and the series will truly allow us to explore the “Lovely Land” that we already glimpsed in the short film. Luce the Rock will go on little daily adventures, discover the inhabitants of the Lovely Land, and its locations.
In short, there are two driving forces: the desire to continue working together, and the determination to explore all the potential that this universe has to offer.
3DVF: Are you planning to re-use the same production pipeline for the animated series, or are you going to tweak a few things?
It’s currently under consideration, but it’s likely to change. The short film was done using TVPaint, and now we’re considering using either Toonboom Harmony or Blender, potentially combined with Grease Pencil. In that case, there would be both 2D and 3D elements, but we would maintain the same artistic direction and the same visual universe created by Britt Raes.
The question is whether 3D would bring more freedom in terms of staging and efficiency. The film may seem very simple, but the animation is very precise, which comes with a cost. Adapting the pipeline and considering efficiency are essential within the economic model of a series. Making the series without changing anything in the production techniques would not be sustainable in terms of budget.
Tests are planned this summer using various software, and we will decide based on the results. The team is open to different technical choices.
Emma makes Waves: an upcoming series
3DVF: Another project, Emma makes Waves, was revealed alongside a beautiful concept art! In this series (52×11′, 6-9 years old), we will follow a young girl and Aquaspirits… Will there be an ecological theme?
The central theme will be the sense of belonging.
The young girl, Emma, was born on the island of Pantelleria. She left when she was young and is now returning. Neither a local nor a tourist, she is caught between two worlds, two cultures. Part of her family lives on the island—her grandparents, cousins, and aunt. So she remains strongly attached to this place, especially because it’s a beautiful island, yet she doesn’t quite feel “at home” there.
Therefore, this sense of belonging will be at the heart of the series—a feeling of belonging to a place, a group. This theme will be explored through adventure and comedy but will remain powerful.
The project was initially created by an Italian artist, Giulia Iacopini, who is an illustrator. I discovered her work on LinkedIn. I saw one of Giulia’s illustrations even though I didn’t know her, and I found it beautiful and truly evocative of an atmosphere, a world that blends fantasy and humanity. I contacted her, proposed working together on developing a series, and teamed her up with a French author, Julien Gallet, as well as a graphic co-author, Camille Chao. The themes resonate strongly with them as well.
The island where the story takes place, Pantelleria, actually exists, and it is the island Giulia Iacopini is originally from. So, there is a very authentic aspect to it, and the project is enriched by Giulia’s life and experience.
When we show more, you will be able to see it: there are many details in this Sicilian ambiance, and it has a lot of charm!
3DVF: The concept art and the name “Aquaspirits” might be a hint that these creatures have a changing form, maybe like water-filled balloons?
Exactly! They are creatures made of some water-like substance, and some of them can change in size. They also have special powers: for example, they can create bubbles for various uses, such as going underwater or protecting themselves. They can also easily camouflage in the water, which is essential as they need to remain secret and hide from tourists.
So, indeed, the environmental theme mentioned earlier is present in the sense that these are creatures to protect, although it’s not the central theme but rather an aspect mentioned throughout the adventures.
3DVF: With these Aquaspirits, it seems that there will be beautiful animation challenges ahead…
That’s for sure! [laughs]
Water, transforming creatures—we have set ourselves some little challenges!
In terms of technique, we currently envision the series in 2D, but we are still in the writing stage, so these types of questions are not the core focus yet.
3DVF: Do you already have a studio or even multiple animation studios in mind to produce the series?
Not yet, but within 24 hours of announcing the project and sharing the concept, two studios had already contacted me to ask that question! Apparently, the concept caught their attention.
That’s great, especially because, as I explained on 3DVF last time, La Cabane does not aim to create a studio. We really want to find the right partners for each project, based on its specific requirements.
If the series is done in 2D, since we haven’t worked with that type of studio in the past, it will probably be a studio we have never collaborated with before, and I’m very excited about that.
3DVF: A good way to renew yourself, to face new technical challenges, to play with new visual styles!
Exactly! When we look at our projects, they are very diverse. In addition to studios, artists have contacted us following the project announcement: design specialists, writers, storyboard artists who want to work with us, and have heard good things about La Cabane.
It’s really rewarding; we focused on Mush-Mush for several years by choice, and now we’re happy to be able to showcase other things!
A Lamb’s Stew: a delicious TV special
3DVF: The latest new project announced by La Cabane, A Lamb’s Stew, is a 26-minute TV Special aimed at a wide audience, about a young sheep who embarks on a journey alongside a wolf. It seems like this project that is less advanced than the other two, right?
Absolutely, we’re at the beginning of the writing process. We have some very early images, but they’re not developed enough to show yet. We should be able to reveal more by the autumn.
It will likely be produced using 3D animation (Blender).
3DVF: A sheep and a wolf as main characters mean that you will have to face a tough challenge : lots of fur. Or are you planning to rely on a stylized approach?
Indeed. Joeri Christiaen, co-founder of La Cabane, is writing and directing. From what we can envision at the moment, we would indeed be leaning towards a more stylized artistic direction than his previous works, with a modern and family-friendly fable-like universe.
This angle and format, for an original creation, are new for us. It may allow us to delve deeper into emotions and explore darker atmospheres.
Robin Robin from Aardman Studios and available on Netflix, is somewhat the kind of mood we want to pursue: mind you, I’m not saying that’s the visual style we’re aiming for, just the idea of entering into an adventure that is both epic and moving, which a format of this length allows.
3DVF: La Cabane was at the Annecy Festival, what was the objective?
To start presenting Emma makes Waves and Luce in the Lovely Land to potential partners. Luce is selected for Cartoon Forum, which will be the real pitching event, but we’re already engaging in preliminary discussions, particularly with partners we have strong relationships with.
We hope to pitch Emma Makes Waves at Cartoon Forum next year. But talking about it now allows us to gauge reactions and generate interest.
Annecy was also an opportunity to discuss the launch of Mush-Mush Season 2, both in France and internationally, whether it’s setting broadcast dates or discussing promotion, and so on.
3DVF: Did you have any time to attend screenings and conferences?
Unfortunately, it’s always very frustrating, with back-to-back meetings, and we can’t necessarily attend the conferences, pitches, or WIP sessions.
I would have loved to see the pitch for La Petite Cavale by Julien Bisaro and Claire Paoletti (by the way, Claire Paoletti is a writing consultant on A Lamb’s Stew!).
The conferences by AnimFrance, CNC, press conferences by France TV or Canal+ are also major events during the Festival. We also participated in an event focused on the Benelux region.
But, as you know, Annecy is such a busy festival that you can’t do everything!
3DVF: That’s true, we once again had to make sacrifices this year…
Exactly, we can’t be everywhere, but it’s always a pleasure to attend. The Annecy Festival/Mifa, and the Cartoon Forum in the fall, are truly the two major events not to be missed for me.
Mush-Mush season 2: evolutions and challenges
3DVF: Let’s talk about Mush-Mush season 2, which will be delivered by the end of the year (48×11’30” + 2 specials of 22′, target audience 4-7 years old). The successful series, featuring mushrooms, underwent a technical change: season 2 is being produced using Unreal, as we wrote at the end of 2022. What are your thoughts on this new pipeline, now that it has been in use for quite some time?
Very positive! In fact, we gave a presentation in April at an event organized by Epic Games called Unreal Evening: Animation.
The teams have observed a real artistic benefit from using real-time technology, particularly Unreal. It allows us to consider lighting challenges very early in the staging process since we use Unreal from the layout stage.
Another advantage is the improved work comfort for the teams. We can anticipate problems more effectively, and rendering no longer takes 50 minutes per frame. Rendering times are reduced by more than 95%.
I want to emphasize the benefits in terms of working conditions. The teams no longer experience the frustration of re-rendering.
And, of course, the carbon footprint is significantly improved. We greatly reduce electricity consumption and eliminate the need for renderfarms that require cooling. That being said, real-time technology requires more powerful graphics cards, which have their own environmental impact. We must not have a simplistic view of things.
That’s why we’re hiring a specialized consultant, Workflowers, to conduct a comprehensive carbon footprint assessment.
3DVF: Some studios such as Ooolala are starting to publicly disclose the results of such studies. Are you planning to do the same for Mush-Mush?
We are awaiting the full launch of Carbulator, a carbon footprint assessment tool developed in partnership with AnimFrance [Editor’s note: a French association of animation producer], of which I am the treasurer. The tool is currently in advanced testing phase.
However, once the assessment is completed, we will have no problem making it public, especially since, to our knowledge, Mush-Mush is the first series in Europe to be produced using Unreal in this type of format (excluding short formats). It will be interesting for the industry to get some information about the carbon footprint.
3DVF: Has real-time technology modified the workflow itself, not just the pipeline? MIAM! Animation studio explained that for the series Edmond&Lucy, produced using Unity, the team implemented a late fine-tuning stage, with frame-by-frame detail additions and even camera angle modifications, for example.
Yes, it happens quite naturally. It also allows us to push things further. For example, in season 2, we will have an episode with rain: we wouldn’t have allowed that in season 1, which was rendered in a more traditional way using Blender. In season 3, maybe it will snow! [laughs]
Real-time technology allows us to push such things. Subsurface scattering (SSS) has also improved significantly; we can include much more than in season 1. As I mentioned in the previous 3DVF article on the series, we had a major problem with noise in the first season. Now, we are no longer limited.
This has a tremendous impact on vegetation. Of course, the overall visual style remains consistent. It’s still season 2, and we don’t want to change the style too radically. However, we push the limits of lighting effects further, especially for volumetric lighting. The result is a rendering with more vibrant colors and sharper images than in season 1.
3DVF: Isn’t there a temptation, nevertheless, to change the visual style when you have these new tools?
No, we didn’t want to change the artistic direction. Not only is it the second season, but the series is also not serialized. Broadcasters want the freedom to mix episodes and seasons. Changing the style too drastically would have created constraints in that regard.
The challenge was already to maintain the same level of quality. Season 1 already had a high visual standard! It was a delicate gamble to change the pipeline between two seasons and work with a young studio, Shards, which had never done a big production like Mush-Mush before.
Matching the visual level was a challenge, and surpassing it is the icing on the cake!
3DVF: At this stage, a potential season 3 has not been officially confirmed yet, but if the journey continues, what improvements would be implemented?
I think we would go through a post-mortem phase, debriefing what can be improved. Primarily, we would aim to further streamline the processes, even though it has already been done over the course of season 2.
If a season 3 were to happen, the idea would probably be to sit down with our partners, Shards, as well as the animation studios, Autour du Volcan / ADV and Borderline, to see what further improvements are possible, particularly in terms of file exchange methods between studios.
As a reminder, in season 1, Cube Studio handled everything. In season 2, with multiple studios involved, it inevitably involves exchanges and we had to ensure data compatibility. There’s room for further refinement in that aspect.
Specifically, the Unreal part only involves layout and rendering. So we first use Unreal, then Blender, then Unreal. Shards handles the layout and rendering, while ADV/Borderline handles animation and rigging. There are back-and-forth exchanges, and we need to ensure that nothing gets lost along the way.
3DVF: How are the back-and-forth data exchanges managed?
We use Alembic exports. But there are subtle details to take into account. For example, there were issues with specular reflections in the eyes that were lost during exports. These animated reflections were lost in the transition to Unreal.
These are the elements that arise during production, even after conducting tests in pre-production. However, the talent of the studios and teams allowed us to find solutions.
3DVF: Are there any artistic improvements planned as well?
Artistically, we could possibly further enhance the atmospheres. Season 2 already has an episode with an autumnal atmosphere, with mud, and I mentioned rain earlier. We could consider creating even more different atmospheres, more astonishing settings in this forest that we have already become familiar with over two seasons. It would be an opportunity to discover it in a new light.
3DVF: Thank you, Perrine, for these details and for this interview!
We will have the opportunity to revisit these projects by La Cabane in the coming months.
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