Interview with LEAP! Movie Producers: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun & Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky #LeapMovie

The film LEAP! is now playing in theaters. If after reading my "3 Reasons to See LEAP! Movie" review, you want to know more about this film, then you'll enjoy reading this interview with the LEAP! movie producers Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou

photo credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images North America

The start of the LEAP! adventure

Yann Zenou: In 2010, Eric Warin and Eric Summer presented us with the pitch and the preliminary sketches for a project that was at the time entitled La véritable histoire des petits rats de l’Opéra (“The True Story of the Petit Rats at the Opera”). We immediately fell in love with that little girl who escaped from her orphanage to come to Paris and enroll at the Opera. We had the beginnings of a beautiful story, but everything else remained to be done.

Laurent Zeitoun: The result was three years of questioning, wondering about how to concretize a film equal to our expectations. A film that puts a spotlight on Paris, and during an era that we don’t often see at the movies: Baron Haussmann’s renovations were still underway, and the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty were still being built.

Laurent Zeitoun: It was only in 2013 that the project took off again. Everything had finally gelled to make the adventure come true. This experience was a veritable marathon for us, and the work that needed to be done was gigantic! That marked us. From then on LEAP! was our baby. We saw it being born, mature, and grow up. We were almost afraid to lay siege to the movie theatres, even though we were persuaded that children, that families would adopt it as a part of their dreams.

The difference between animation and a live action film

Laurent Zeitoun: The main thing is to tell a great story about a hero with whom we can live and vibrate. At the beginning of the project, we did not raise any questions about the particularities of the world of animation.

Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky: We’ve been asked why we didn’t decide to film it as a live action movie. The answer is very simple: animation lets you reach a different, wider audience. The idea that a film will speak to the entire family, to parents and to children too, is very gratifying.

We already realized that kids had loved some of our romantic comedies, such as Eyjafjallajokull. We wanted to speak to them more and more, and to adults who have remained children too… beginning with ourselves and our own kids!

Yann Zenou: For us, cinema means sublimating the real world to understand it better and accept it. Along with our imaginations, animation is the ideal way to express our dreams. I think that the first film we make in our heads as children is a cartoon that bridges the real world and our imaginations. A cartoon is what links childhood and the world of adults.

The French touch that differentiates LEAP! from American productions

Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky: We were often told that any self-respecting animated film needs to have animals that talk, and heroes who break into song. We preferred to bank on the realism of the story, the coherence between the characters and the course of their adventures.

Laurent Zeitoun: It’s hard to distinguish influences. Nothing was premeditated, either in terms of remaining French, or of fitting into American patterns. The three of us racked or brains to tell a story that relies on a wide range of emotions.

Yann Zenou: We never asked ourselves what the big studios would have done in our place. We made the film that we would like to see as members of the audience. The fact that all three of us are French probably did play a role, subconsciously.

Making the pirouettes and other dance movements look realistic and magical

Laurent Zeitoun: We began by testing “motion capture”, fitting out a dancer - in this case Aurélie Dupont - with sensors that transmit points of movement to a computer. Strange to say, the first results conveyed a feeling of inertia, even though they were a faithful reproduction of what the dancer was actually doing.

Laurent Zeitoun: We quickly abandoned that option, and even more so since our points of reference were studio films in which motion capture was never used. We were looking for greater sophistication, greater dynamism regarding both dance and emotions. The “keyframe” technique, that is to say animation by keyframes allowed us to meet that objective – thanks to Ted Ty, our animation director, who had worked for Disney and DreamWorks.

When you see Félicie and Camille dance onscreen, their movements are twice as quick and broad as in real life. That is how we were able to stick to the “larger than life” nature of the story and animation. The final duel, in which the two rivals move from the stage to the auditorium and then to the grand staircase at the Opera, is a perfect example.

photo credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images North America

The meaning of what motivated you as producers

Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky: From the start, I think that it was our choice of a beautiful story. What makes us happiest about LEAP! is having engaged the audience’s emotions, especially children’s.

Yann Zenou: In that sense, when we see audience reactions in the theaters, all the ordeals we went through fade away. The film has been sold all over the world, which implies openness to different types of audiences and cultures.

Laurent Zeitoun: I’m always on the alert for an adventure, with all the personal and professional discoveries it generates. LEAP! and all the films we have been lucky enough to produce have one thing in common: characters that evolve, who have a compelling story, and whose fate we want to watch. But even more so, the opportunity of working with exceptional talents.

1-year-old orphan, Félicie (Elle Fanning) has one dream - to go to Paris and become a dancer. Her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff), an imaginative but exhausting boy with a passion for creating, has a dream of his own - to become a famous inventor.

In a leap of faith, Victor and Félicie leave their orphanage in pursuit of their passions. But - there's a catch, Félicie must pretend to be the child of a wealthy family in order to gain admittance to the prestigious and competitive Opera Ballet School in Paris.

LEAP! - Online Dance Trailer

And with no professional dance training, she quickly learns that talent alone is not enough to overcome the ruthless, conniving attitudes of her fellow classmates, led by the devious Camille Le Haut (Maddie Ziegler).

Determined to succeed, Félicie finds her mentor in the tough and mysterious school custodian, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) who, along with Victor's encouraging friendship, help her reach for the stars.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Maddie Ziegler, With Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon And Carly Rae Jepsen
Directed by: Éric Summer, Éric Warin
Written by: Carol Noble, Éric Summer, Laurent Zeitourn

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