Joeri Christiaen, creator and director of animated series My Knight and Me gave an interview for proanimatie.ro. The series is a Franco-Belgian production, conducted by TeamTO and Thuristar, co-produced by Canal+ Family and TéléTOON+ (France), SuperRTL (Germany) and RTBF and VRT Ketnet-Ouftivi (Belgium). TeamTO is the studio that made the animated feature Yellowbird and famous animated series Angelo Rules.
I would like to start by asking you about the animated films 850 Meters and the animated series My Knight and Me, directed by you. Can You tell us if there is any connection between them?
Yes, there is a connection – one is an evolution of the other, a pure spin-off!
When I was working on 850 Meters and we were running a teaser on the internet, it grew the attention of a French broadcaster who absolutely loved the character and they asked if we could create a TV series based off the teaser. So the teaser had of course a Knight and that was the foundation on what we built My Knight and Me. Visually as well there is a resemblance. From the teaser, I went on and started creating all the characters for the TV series.
How the animated series My Knight and Me was made?
First, in making this animation took part many people. Being a French-Belgian production, a big part was made in France with TeamTo. The sound was recorded and processed in Belgium, but the work was made also in London. There were two years of fun for us, while we worked with people who gave everything they had better, for the result to be one exceptional.
London. There were two years of fun for us, during which we worked with people who gave everything they had better, because the result is an exception.
My Knight and Me followed a traditional production cycle, with some animation done in 2D at Thuristar, and the cg work distributed between TeamTO’s Paris and Bourg-les-Valence (near Lyon) studios. After the writing process, boards and animatics were produced. Voice-overs were then recorded in both French and English before final animation was completed, undertaken by a team of 44 animators. The production time for the 52 x 13-minute episodes was around 18 months.
What animation techniques did you use?
Having completed an animated feature (Yellowbird) prior to My Knight and Me, TeamTO took advantage of some internal pipeline developments for use on the show. That included moving to a Pixar RenderMan rendering workflow, somewhat rare in TV production.
A point of difference for the show is its stylization. It’s clearly in the realm of cg animation but occasionally looks more graphic in nature, often with plain backgrounds. The idea here was to clearly separate the characters from their environments.
How many people were involved in making of the animated series?
The team was increased when we entered the post-production phase, in total, more than 90 people were involved.
My Knight and Me is made by TeamTO, the studio that made the feature film animation Yellowbird and thefamous animated series Angelo. The series directed by you is different from the other productions made by TeamTO. Can we talk about a specific style of the animation studio? If yes, what is it?
This is my second production achieved with TeamTO and the beauty working with them is the fact that they are not afraid to try different styles. If you look at everything they have done so far, you will always see differences, which shows great courage on their part. What I really appreciate is that TeamTO let me freedom and so I could reach my highest potential. The combination of my ideas and all their know-how was a winner.
Are You planning to direct an animated feature film?
Yes, I’m working with my company from Belgium, Thuristar, gathering my ideas for my next animated film, but I’ve started working on the second TV series, so I do not know exactly when I will realize the animated film.
What My Knight and Me brings new compared to other animated series made in the last years?
It is very difficult to compare with other animated series, however I think that brings something new, it’s that we tried to make a successful combination of comedy and story, to bring freshness. Music is truly special. The musicians behind the show who made also the songs, being my old collaborators.
What are your favorite animations?
I really like Kung Fu Panda, How to train your dragon, but at the same time I like Regular Show.
How was your collaboration with Sylvain Chomet?
How would you describe European animation and also what do you think about contemporary French animation in the international context?
First, I must say that I’ve never personally met him. The production for which we worked was a very difficult one, because many countries were involved. I have never worked directly with him, between us there were several intermediaries at that time.
There is so much variety in animation that is difficult to talk in specific terms about European animation.
What is your work-in-progress right now?
At this time, I develop with Thuristar a new animated series, but it is in an early stage. It is the animated story of an actor who wants to succeed in Cartoon City, a sort of Hollywood’s animation.