Friday, 8 April 2011

The Animation Timeline: Sylvain Chomet (born in 1963)

Sylvain Chomet is a French comic book writer, animator and film  director. Born and raised in Paris, Chomet moved in London to work as an animator. He has created some of the most tragic, elegant, twisted stories in film history. Like any other animator in the art world, Chomet wanted to make his mark to this area. His unique style in animation with his beautiful use of colour and detail, distinctive characters and his lack of dialogue made his work a living proof that there is no need of a fancy dialogue in a story-let the beauty of colour and body language tell the story themselves. "Chomet describes his style as being based on mime and character acting, and being influenced by real camera work and animation." (Beck.2005:292) 

Chomet completed his first animated short called La Vieille Dame et les pigeons (The Old Lady and the Pigeons) in 1988. The film tells the story of a starving beat cop in the streets of Paris that find a way to satisfy his hunger: to disguise himself as a pigeon and be fed by an old lady who seems to be fond of he feather friends. The story works very nicely and the French atmosphere of the town is very obvious. It seems the story was most probably inspired by Chomet's time in Paris where he spent most of his childhood.   

In 2003 Chomet released his first full length feature Les Triplettes de Belleville, a true masterpiece of subtle grotesqueness and once again with his non dialogue style he gives an incredible sensation to his story. The story is a about a grandmother who discovers her grand son's love for cycling and does whatever to help her son win the La Tour France when suddenly he is being kidnapped and forced to cycle non stop in a competing race where betting on the winner. The film features twisted animation, suprising sound effects and amazing art. The amount of detail is outstanding as if the animator wanted to make sure his characters' world was exactly as imagined. 
But no other film has touched the audience's hearts like The Illusionist, the story of a travelling failed magician who no matter how hard he tries to perform his magic tricks to his small audience he does not succeed in becoming big. During his journey a scottish girl was astonished when he magically gave her a new pair of shoes. Carried away by his 'magical' abilities, and dreaming of a better life, she follows him and asks for even more. But it's no long when she founds out that whatever he was offering him was nothing but an illusion, a magic trick and that magicians do not exist. This melancholic story can really bring the viewer to the illusionist's situation and his psychology. The disappointment and his mood swings are beautifully expressed through the environment and colour. With this film Chomet proves that traditional hand drawn animation is dead but more alive than ever.  "The Illusionist won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and its leisurely pace and melancholy finish may well fly in the face of what many might expect from an animated movie.
In conclusion, Sylvain Chomet's work cannot only be considered as an animation. It qualifies a lot more than that. It is packed with emotion, colour and a deep atmosphere. After all, animation would just be pencil marks if real emotions were not put into it.


Beck, Jerry(2005) The Animated movie Guide. USA: Acapella Books
Shubhajit (2010) Film Review At: (accessed on 7/4/2010)

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: At: (accessed on 5/4/2011)
FIG.2: S,Chomet At: (accessed on 5/4/2011)
FIG.3: At:  (accessed on 5/4/2011)
FIG.4: At:  (accessed on 5/4/2011)

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