"The Secret of Kells" by Tomm More


How an Irish dream became an European success story.

The Secret of Kells is a fairy tale. The story of a mad project born in the wildest dreams of a mad man. But the mad man was an artist and a fantastic one. Some kind of genius ready to struggle for what he believed in. And so the dream came true. The dream became a wonderful European project and months later a full length movie praised by the critics all over the world.  The story could end there. It would be a nice story. However, the reality got bigger than the dream itself and in the beginning of 2010, the movie ended in the magical final list, nominated to the best animated feature film in 2010 US movie Academy awards. Yes, Brendan and the Secret of Kells, the mighty European miracle, ended up with the likes of The Princess and the frog, Coraline, Fantastic Mr.Fox and Up. The cream upon the cake. The top of the world.

In the beginning, there was Cartoon Saloon. The Irish company driven by the creative Tomm Moore planned to set up a full length animation movie based on the screenplay of Fabrice Ziolkowsky, a French screenwriter. Tomm wanted to direct it but quickly conceived his movie as a pan European project. Ambitious it was. Ambitious it stays all along the working process. The magical side of the project was that Tomm Moore never directed any full-length movie before that. However, his powerful vision, his typically Irish tenacity and the very original subject seduced everyone faced with the project. This feature narrated the story of a young monk who is at the origin of the famous Livre de Kells, a mysterious illuminated manuscript that is highly praised. A typical Celtic tale deeply based in the roots of Ireland.

More than the story itself, it was the drawings and the very original design imagined by Moore that provoked overall enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is wonderful. Nevertheless, when you plan to make a movie, it's all about money, artists, studios, technical problems to deal with.  Making the dream come true was quite a challenge that Tomm wonderfully explained in a blog he wrote from day one (a blog you can read here
. It's a fascinating story written with utmost enthusiasm. Tomm never lied, told us about his doubts, his joys, the travels he made throughout Europe, as far as Hungary where he worked with a company named Kecskemét which made the drawings for the movies. This is a never ending story as we can still regularly read interviews or reviews over there.

But back to the basics. The first step of Tomm's saga was to find coproducers to help Cartoon Saloon. The French company Les Armateurs, famous as being the producers of Les Triplettes de Belleville, quickly signed a deal with Tomm. The French company Spirit was asked to deal about the compositing aspect of the movie.

In Belgium, Vivi Film which also worked on Les Triplettes was tempted by the incredible adventure: never change a winning team!  Thanks to the charming Viviane Vanfleteren the Belgian company Walking the dog immediately joined the adventure to create the 3D effects. This was a nice opportunity for the VAF,  The Flanders Audiovisual Fund which decided to support Vivi Film in this project. The Belgian producer, very active in the documentary field, is considered an expert in producing animated movies. 

Clever as Viviane is, she also took this unique opportunity to develop her activities in Wallonia (the French speaking part of Belgium). She charged a young company from Liege, the mighty Digital Graphics with the computer development of graphic tools and the integral coloring of the drawings (several hundred thousands).

For the first time in her career, Viviane asked the Waloon regional film fund Wallimage for its support. Wallimage was really interested. Wallimage is not only involved in supporting/coproducing films like Looking for Eric, A town called panic or Brendan. The fund also invests capital into different innovative companies. In 2006, Wallimage-Entreprises (official name of the subsidiary) decided to put some money in a dynamic Walloon company named… Digital Graphics. 

The Secret of Kells was quite an opportunity for Digital Graphics to develop quicker than imagined. This was a nice movie project with the perspective for a Walloon company to hire new staff and become bigger! Everything was there to motivate the administrators of Wallimage, who decided to join the party. 

Based in Alleur, Digital Graphics (the name says it all) worked on this animated movie from March 2006. It took 13 months for the company created and led by the Umé brothers to achieve the mission. They were also responsible for all services related to the special effects throughout the project:  preparation before the movie, consultancy during the making and a following-up during the post-production stage. The collaboration was so successful that Tomm Moore intended to expand their collaboration on his next full-length project…

However, that was before Brendan took the Academy Awards by surprise. Nowadays, big American Companies are more than interested in producing his next effort. 
No deal has been signed yet but you certainly will read a lot more about Tomm Moore soon. 

Source: Cine-Regio, September 2010



Awards and nominations:

Nominated for a 2010 US Academy award:
Best animated feature