The animated film “Even Mice Go to Heaven” is released on our screens today. We had met its producers on the occasion of the 2021 edition of the Annecy festival.
What role did the city of Annecy and its festival play in the conception of the film Even the Mice Go to Heaven?
Vladimír Lhoták (producer): At the 2014 Annecy festival, we presented the project with Denisa Grimmovà (the co-director, editor’s note) and Alexandre. Discussions then began on site to move the project forward, and today we are here to present the film. (the interview was carried out the day after its preview screening at the Annecy festival, editor’s note). It’s really a project that was born in Annecy, and the festival has supported us from start to finish.
Alexandre Charlet (producer): Annecy was the meeting place of the project, but the gestation is international because we went through stages of co-production throughout Europe. Vladimír presented the projects in cities such as Amsterdam, Malmö, Stuttgart, and in Canada itself.
There has therefore been a fairly significant development path. Afterwards, we can indeed say that the project was carried by the city of Annecy because the distribution company Les films du cygne is based there, the 3D animation and special effects were entrusted to the Annecy studio INTHEBOX. But we can above all speak of beautiful European cooperation, for a film that is not so easy to edit.
How was the project born ? What were the elements that formed the basis of this story?
Vladimír Lhoták: The film is adapted from a Czech book spotted by Denisa Grimmovà. We met on the benches of the film school in Prague. At the time, I didn’t have my company or even really set foot in the industry yet, so my role was first of all to help them get the rights to adapt the novel.
The discussions took place with a German publishing house, because the author Iva Prochazkova emigrated there in the early 1980s. The negotiations were long, and it was only after more than a year of exchange that we were able to start the development of the project, with the help of the Czech film support fund.
The book is perfect for a 20 minute short film because it is quite short, so with the writers and especially Alice Nellis (who is also a director) we had to find ideas to extend the story. The script was written in Czech, but has been translated into several languages to facilitate discussion. However, this required us to work on several different versions, which did not make things easier.
Besides the language barrier, what was the main challenge in terms of production to bring such a project to fruition?
Alexandre Charlet: The co-production went perfectly at all stages of the project. There has always been mutual respect, whether it is Vladimír for the complexity of the French financing system, and me for the specificities of the system put in place by the Czech Republic.
I had to adapt to the timing of Vladimír, who got his Czech funding before me, and together we were able to integrate our Polish and Slovak partners. We really took the film together, we shared the risks, and decided to choose all our partners on an equitable basis. So the project was not easy to set up for all these reasons, but in the end everything went really well.
When was the decision made to make the film in stop-motion? Did the idea take hold immediately, from the launch of the project?
Alexandre Charlet: The film really gives the feeling of living the adventures in the company of the characters, of crying at the same time as them, of laughing alongside them, of being angry for the same reasons as them… There is a real desire to obtain a realistic result, but without neglecting the stylized aspect. The question of stop-motion arose very early on, Denisa quickly expressed the wish to shoot the film like this.
Vladimír Lhoták: It was not an obvious choice to impose. We have to put the context back: around 2010, the success of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox led to renewed interest in stop-motion, but it was nevertheless very difficult to convince our partners, especially the Czech co-producers, who felt it was too outdated a technique. The teaser that we presented at the Annecy festival a few years ago made them change their minds.