Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar are Belgian writers and directors who met at the Institute of Fine Arts Saint-Luc Liege in 1986. They then attended the Graduate School of Visual Arts de la Cambre in Brussels, Belgium. They worked on a series of short films throughout the 1990s, including several shorts featuring Pic Pic and Andre. In the early 2000s, they created a spinoff animated series called A Town Called Panic, which followed the everyday events of Cowboy, Horse, and Indian in their small rural town. A few years later, Aubier and Patar decided to make a feature-length version of their animated series. For this latest installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look back at their two (so far) feature-length directorial efforts, A Town Called Panic and Ernest and Celestine.
Co-directed by Aubier and Patar, 2009’s A Town Called Panic centers on a cowboy, a Native American Indian, and a horse who share a house in a rural town, where an accidental brick order sets off a chain of events that sends the group of friends to the center of the earth, the frozen tundra, and a parallel underwater universe. Featuring the voices of Aubier, Patar, Bruce Ellison, Jeanne Balibar, Veronique Dumont, Frederic Jannin, Christine Grulois, and Francois Neyken, this critically acclaimed stop-motion animated film grossed $196,000 in an extremely limited release worldwide. It was based on the television series, and was particularly inspired by the episode entitled The Card Thieves. Filming took place for 260 days at Aubier and Patar’s studio in Belgium using 1500 plastic toy figures. It was also the first stop-motion animated film to ever screen at the Cannes Film Festival. Among the film’s accolades are a Cesar Award nod for Best Foreign Film, an Audience Award win at the Austin Fantastic Fest, a Cinanima Festival Award win for Best Feature Film, and a Best Animated Feature win at the Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival.
Co-directed by Aubier, Patar, and Benjamin Renner, 2012’s Ernest and Celestine centers on a young mouse living in an orphanage who forms an unlikely bond with a destitute bear and discovers that not everyone is accepting of their surprising friendship. Featuring the voices of Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Dominique Maurin, Anne-Marie Loop, Patrice Melennec, and Brigitte Virtudes, this critically acclaimed film cost approximately $12.9 million to make and has played at several film festivals (including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered). Based on the classic Belgian book series by Gabrielle Vincent, the film uses a watercolor painting approach to its animation look. Among the film’s accolades are a SACD (Directors’ Fortnight)- Special Mention win at the Cannes Film Festival, a Cinekid Film Award for Best International Film, a People’s Choice Award win at the Dubai International Film Festival, a Films4Families Youth Jury Award win at the Seattle International Film Festival, and a Cesar Award win for Best Animated Film. The film will be released in the U.S. by GKIDS, although there is no scheduled U.S. release date at this time.