Waltzing with zombies

Film still of Zombillénium (Zombillenium) © RR

Seven years after the release of the first volume of Zombillénium (Zombillenium), a humourous comic strip chronicling the daily routines in an amusement park where the employees are all zombies, Arthur De Pins has joined forces with scriptwriter Alexis Ducord to adapt it to the screen. The duo talks about the making of the film, presented in a special screening open to children.

Why did you choose not to just adapt one of the volumes of the comic strip?

Arthur De Pins: We wanted to tell a story that belongs to the film, one that stands alone as a complete story. So we took it back to ground zero with a clean slate that has none of the events described in the comic strips. Aurelien, the hero of the comics, wasn't the right fit. Too passive, too malleable… We imagined a plot with a hero whose character was shaped by the events of the story. This was the genesis of Hector, the father of a little girl whom he tirelessly searches for throughout the film.

Alexis Ducord: To create an original script, but one that is true to the world of Zombillenium, we thought it was more appropriate to leave in all the characters who keep the park running, but to change the one character who plays to the audience's point of view. This enabled us to freely adapt new themes that we wanted to deal with in the film.

The film was released after five years of work…

ADP: The production was split between four studios: 2 Minutes Paris for the development, design and production oversight, 2 Minutes Angoulême for the modeling of the characters and compositing, Pipangaï (La Réunion) for the animation and Dreamwall (Belgium) for the sets and 30% of the animation. We travelled a lot between these four studios. In all, more than 200 people worked on the film.

AD: Above and beyond the financing and scriptwriting, the film took about two years to make. The is the first 3D feature film for Arthur, me and the studio. The difficulty was in having to decide on different ways of revealing the characters and the sets at the very outset of production, without being able to see or preview the outcome until a year and a half later.

Graphically, what were you striving to do?

ADP: We wanted to recreate the same graphics as in the comic strip. To do that, we needed a fluid animation technique that allows for very detailed visuals. Alexis and I are not unconditional fans of 3D, but this technique allows for very slow movement, so you can get away from a type of animation that is very cartoonish and achieve greater realism that way.

The action takes place in the Nord department, in an abandoned mine. Is this meant to be a social statement?

ADP : Absolutely! There are three reasons for this. The Nord is an industrial region that evokes the major works of social drama of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is also a region with many amusement parks. Finally, these flat, misty landscapes are perfect for emphasizing the silhouette of the fairground. There was no better place to talk about our class struggle, depicted in a version featuring zombies and vampires. On one of our location shoots, we visited the Leward mine, between Valenciennes and Lille. It was on this visit that we got the idea of making Zombillenium an abandoned mine.