The Art Ludique museum celebrates the creators of Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Dragons time for a retrospective exhibition.

Less celebrated than Pixar or Ghibli, the DreamWorks studio remains a benchmark in world animation cinema with schoolboy works like Shrek or moving like Dragons. The Art Ludique museum in Paris pays tribute to the American studio on the occasion of its 25th anniversary through a major exhibition which runs until November 8. The opportunity to discover 200 rare graphic works telling behind the scenes and the secrets of Shrek, Dragons, Kung Fu Panda or The Trolls 2 and The Croods 2.

The Prince of Egypt, the epic ambition

President of Walt Disney Studios from 1984 to 1994, Jeffrey Katzenberg was the man who put the company back on its feet with films like The little Mermaid, The beauty and the Beast, Aladdin or The Lion King. Crowned with commercial success, however, he suffered from a lack of recognition at Disney and left the studio with loss and noise in 1994. He founded in the wake with the director Steven Spielberg and the producer David Geffen DreamWorks SKG.

The Prince of Egypt
The Prince of Egypt © DreamWorks

With their first projects, Ant and especially The Prince of Egypt, both released in 1998, they want to distinguish themselves from Disney. The Prince of Egypt is all that the studio of the great Walt refuses to produce: “Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to make a film on Moses for a long time. It had always been refused to him at Disney”, explains Jean-Jacques Launier, founder of the Art Ludique museum. “He wanted to do big show production and started the project alongside the emergence of 3D.”

Released at Christmas 1998, the film did not achieve the expected success, but remained a benchmark: “It’s a cult film”, comments Jean-Jacques Launier. “When we talk to the DreamWorks teams, we realize how The Prince of Egypt matters to them. They’ve made a lot of films since, but they still remain very attached to this one. Even if they are known for their impertinence and their caustic side, which can be found in Shrek or The Trolls, The Prince of Egypt remains a letter of nobility with them. “

Shrek, tales revisited

Shrek, which won the first animated film Oscar in 2002, is a very important film for DreamWorks. Huge worldwide box office success, this parody of bold-humor fairy tales imposes the studio on the audiovisual landscape. This universe was born during the production.

The exhibition presents various working documents from Shrek (sketches, storyboards) which allow us to understand how what remains as one of the most significant animated films in history was imagined. A painting signed by the French Luc Desmarchelier with the three heroes of the film – Shrek, the donkey and Fiona – in the middle of a beautiful landscape, as in a Disney, allows to understand how DreamWorks imagines its pranks.

“Shrek” © DreamWorks

“Indeed, it is not the traditional vision of Shrek”, indicates Jean-Jacques Launier. “It’s almost a rural vision. With this green valley and these beautiful clouds, it could be a poetic painting. What we know about Shrek is the impertinence and the flatulence, but also the diversion of a fairy tale. They are inspired by fairy tales and then reinterpret them in crossed out comedy. This art of diversion is one of the signatures of DreamWorks. “

He adds: “When they make a film, there is always a first phase which is chaos. They are a whole team that draws to see what the character and the film could look like. It is during this stage that ‘such an image is produced. Then it refocuses with the director and the teams, who decide to orient themselves towards such and such a universe. With this exhibition, we can discover what we never see: the preparatory drawings for the films , and new visions of these cult works. “

Kung Fu Panda, the renewal

Released in 2008, the first part of Kung Fu Panda proved that DreamWorks is capable, beyond the success of Shrek, imagine new iconic characters. Successful bet with Po, this clumsy panda who becomes a great master of martial arts:

“It’s true that when we talk about DreamWorks, we often talk about Shrek, because he was so important in what he brought in as new values. It was very strong back then, but Kung Fu Panda when it came out was a real breath of fresh air for the studio, “recalls Jean-Jacques Launier.

“Kung Fu Panda” © DreamWorks

One of the secrets of DreamWorks is its lack of style and its ability to adapt to all genres, from Bee movie at Turbo Passing by Megamind. The studio does have a secret weapon, however: a talented French delegation, responsible for creating some of the studio’s most memorable characters.

One of those hidden talents is Nico Marlet, a genius “character designer” who has worked at DreamWorks for 22 years and creator of the characters for Kung Fu Panda, Dragons or Abominable. “He is an important figure in the world of animation. He is very secretive. He speaks very little. He always draws in pencil. He refuses digital,” says Jean-Jacques Launier, before adding: “This the great thing is that he manages to motivate the directors. They have ideas of course, but the way he draws the characters gives them others. He allows the directors to go further. . “

“The French delegation at DreamWorks is colossal,” adds the specialist. “Dean DeBlois, the director of Dragons, do not hide it. Nico Marlet did the character design for all the characters, while Pierre-Olivier Vincent, the artistic director behind all the sets and Kristof Serrand, oversees the animation. When you go to DreamWorks, it’s pretty funny. There is a very beautiful campus. There is a restaurant with a waterfall. We see all the French who are together. They always eat outside, when Americans prefer to eat indoors, with air conditioning. There is a truly cosmopolitan dimension to Dreamworks: there are only 30-40% Americans on the teams. “

The Trolls 2, the unbridled madness

Known for their sassy humor, DreamWorks productions have rarely dared to reproduce the quirky and sometimes schoolboy humor of Shrek. With The Croods, and especially The Trolls 2, released on October 14, the studio seems to have taken the plunge once again. Psychedelic animated film, Trolls 2 deploys a very astonishing imagination, in line with the craziest episodes of Spongebob.

A surreal scene from
A surreal scene from “Trolls 2” © DreamWorks

“We wonder how they did certain scenes,” enthuses Jean-Jacques Launier. “I was extremely surprised by the movie, in a good way. I didn’t think the movie would be that strong. You can tell yourself I’m saying this because the movie just came out, but no. The movie is really completely crazy, its message is really interesting about diversity and difference and at the same time graphically and technologically, it’s completely crazy. It’s almost a contemporary art installation! It’s all over the place !. “

Intended for a childish audience, Trolls 2 looks like an experimental film, with surreal scenes: “The studio did not restrain the director of Trolls 2. Technology allows him to do things that were impossible to do at the time of Shrek or even the first part of Trolls. DreamWorks is working with Nasa and MIT to develop its software. Technology comes to serve artists, because they can push the boundaries. “

25 years of Dreamworks – from October 14, 2020 to November 8, 2020 – Art Ludique Hors les Murs – 2a Rue Montalembert Paris (75007). Free admission. The exhibition will then move between March and June in the castle of Ferney-Voltaire in the Ain.