Héloïse Courtois, Victori Jalabert, Chloé Plat and Adèle Raigneau all met while they were studying at MoPA, an animation school based in Arles, France. Sharing a common aesthetic, the foursome decided to work together for their graduation film and the result is Grand Bassin, which they released into the world last month. Taking us back to long summer days, the six and a half minute animation is set in the public swimming baths and depicts the different characters you might encounter.
“Some of our group used to go to the pool and observe many fun and unique situations there,” says the team. “As a public space it’s fascinating, as you find yourself nearly naked in front of lots of people you don’t know.” This sense of vulnerability is explored in the film in various ways, the main one being the loss of a ginger toupee, which becomes a surprising and comical arc in the film. The relatability of these familiar feelings and characters, and the recognisable setting is what initially hooks you in, but it’s offset by unexpected segues and funny moments. “All of these situations are specific to this place,” says the group. “We also liked the idea of focusing on a swimming pool because it can be a cold and sanitised space through its architectural rigour, but also all the sounds are amplified.”
Courtois, Jalabert, Plat and Raigneau ran with this idea and have also amplified the characters themselves, enlarging limbs so they look as big as great tree trunks but keeping their heads relatively miniscule. It’s a nice contrast that runs throughout and gives the film a charming aesthetic.
In the animation we run into various characters including a group of aqua-aerobic fanatics, a lifeguard unsubtly ogling everyone and bathers showing off their muscles. The attention to detail for each personality and group of characters is wonderfully well-observed and it’s helped by the creative process the quartet adopted. Using “a step animation”, a timing function that allows animations to be broken into segments, rather than one continuous transition, they could sculpt each pose independently, which allowed them to be more precise. This was important because dialogue was purposely left out of the film, so the animators needed to “make the bodies talk” and sometimes “exaggerate the movements of each character”.
The film took a year for the new graduates to create and they each had a specific role to play. “We have all worked on the development of the story. But we had a fairly defined aesthetic, based on many illustrations and concepts from Héloïse and Adèle,” the group explains. “We were inspired by a lot of classical paintings for framing, and Chloé worked on the storyboard and was able to stage the film’s progress, while Victori worked on the transition from 2D to 3D illustration. It was definitely a challenge, because we wanted to find a balance in our image, to ultimately create a hybrid rendering.”
Of course, animating as a group of four meant production had to be super organised and tasks distributed fairly. But ultimately working as a group brought about more benefits than challenges. “Above all, the advantages were that we were able to rely on each other, to be able to support each other and also decompress with each other during long working hours behind the computer,” they say.
Since releasing the film and graduating from MoPA, the four animators are throwing themselves straight into the working world. Plat is working in Paris at VFX and animation studio Circus, while developing personal projects on the side, Raigneau works at Mikros Animation in Montreal and Courtois and Jalabert are working together to create a new short film.
Through Grand Bassin we get a peek at what these four individual animators can do, but ultimately the film is an invitation to observe, and gaze at the different characters who inhabit these spaces. “We hope people have a good time watching the movie and that they want to go back to the pool,” they say. “Even with the bandages floating in the foot bath!”