Intergalactic emperor, John LeDouche, is pretty pissed off. His mother, a fortune teller and gray eminence, prophesied that a Chosen One should soon put an end to his tyrannical reign. However, before dying almost heroically, the Chosen One transferred 25% of his brilliant brain into a Rabbid’s body — all because of a bandwidth issue (as is often the case). He turned into Ken in the process. The Rabbids and the universe’s destiny now lies on his furry shoulders, his mule and his quarter of a genius… “Starpets” is both a super absurd comedy and a space opera on acid, rendered in a never-before-seen animation style!
Director: Stéphane Berla
Authors: Éric Judor, Hafid Benamar, and Baptiste Nicolai
Producers: Hélène Juguet (Ubisoft Film & Television, France) and Hugo Revon (Ubisoft Film & Television, France)
Format: 10 X 15’
Target audience: adults/young adults
Techniques: 3D digital
Starpets is a 3DCGI Sci-Fi comedy series project targeting an adult/young adult audience with a taste of B-movies incorporated as entertaining story/visual accents. It will depict a fun and exaggerated, surrealistic space story with the rabbid characters from Ubisoft’s globally popular franchise Lapins Crétins (English: Rabbids). It was pitched at Cartoon Forum 2023 by the core project members Stéphane Berla, Éric Judor, Hafid Benamar, and Hugo Revon.
We interviewed Stéphane Berla, the director, and Hugo Revon, the producer, on Starpets.
Interview with Stéphane Berla and Hugo Revon
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know what part of this animation series you think will be the most appealing or attractive to the prospective audience?
Stéphane Berla: I think that one of the key features of Starpets is the unpredictability. We do everything to continually surprise the viewer, whether through the absurdity of the situations, the sheer stupidity of our characters, or the visual style. The main idea of all our artistic choices from the writing to the production is to grant us radical creative freedom, all while filming like it is a blockbuster. I believe this will come as a refreshing experience to our audience.
HN: How did this project start and why did you decide to produce this project?
Hugo Revon: Starpets started in 2018 when I met Stéphane Berla. I was told he was super versatile and inventive and … indeed he mentioned his long-time passion for space ‘kitsch’ shows influenced by the 70’s space operas, Japanese Super Sentai series, and B-movies like Megaforce (1982)! I immediately thought that Lapins Crétins (English: Rabbids) could totally fit in this genre. However, not the Rabbids as we know them from the kids TV show, Rabbids Invasion, but rather closer aligned to the original game characters – a bit mean and chaotic! Quickly, Stéphane created their loose-cannon cousins and our hero, Ken, 20% genius and 80% idiotic. The closest person to a leader they have…
HN: In addition to the previous question, please tell us how the core members, who were on the stage today, gathered together for the project?
Hugo Revon: Well, Stéphane and I are big fans of Platane (2011), a French Sitcom, and Vermin (2018), a French animation series, so it felt very natural to reach out first to Éric Judor and Hafid Benamar. As fans of Rabbids and seeing the amazing visual proposition that Stéphane was cooking, they jumped quickly on board!
HN: In terms of the story developing of this new animation series with the three scriptwriters, what are you taking care in the most so far?
Stéphane Berlai: Even if they can be profoundly riddled with flaws, it’s very important to me that our characters stay very endearing and human. Well, as human as a ‘rabbid’ can be. For example, Ken is aware of his limitations, which can lead to inner conflicts or doubts. He is torn, swinging between the crowning glory of being the brainiest ‘rabbid’ in the spaceship and the humiliating realization that he’s essentially 80% moron.
HN: Could you please let us know the story behind the visual creation? What kind of visual characteristics do you aim to achieve and why?
Stéphane Berla: With Hugo, we wanted a very clear break from what had been done with the original Rabbids. My initial idea was to create a series with punk ‘Muppets’ in space. But Ubisoft weren’t too keen when I told them we absolutely had to use real rabbit fur… As a result, I opted for a graphic style I’ve been experimenting in music videos which allows me to animate a kind of digital clay with a realistic and organic look. I use VR headsets for this purpose, which enables me to work directly with my hands to create and animate my characters.
HN: What do you think about the most unique or challenging element of this project so far?
Stéphane Berla: Our animation technique is so “out there”, it makes traditional CGI look like a fax machine at a smartphone party. With this method, we get to ditch the tech headaches and sculpt things with our bare hands. But, let’s be real, it’s like strapping a rocket to a roller skate – incredibly fast and exciting, but you might end up on the neighbor’s roof. Ever tried sipping coffee in a VR headset? It’s like a hot lava challenge for your knees. I’ve already turned a pair of jeans into hot pants and cooked a keyboard during the creation of the trailer.
HN: What is your current distribution plan for this series? At the moment, are you planning to complete it as a French TV animation series first? Or are you already working for it as a global title that reaches people outside of Europe?
Hugo Revon: At Ubisoft Film & Television, we always think global when it comes to developing new shows and we believe absurd comedy travels well. The show is dealing with algorithms, AI, astrology, chaos and humanity after all – topical themes of our time even outside of Europe.… especially astrology, right? Of course, Rabbids, Hafid Benamar, and Éric Judor have a strong footprint here so France is an important part of our financing plan.