Tara Duncan is an ordinary girl from Earth. By going to Otherworld, a magical planet, she will learn how to control her awakening powers in order to help her family to protect the luxuriant Meme empire as she is the heir to the throne. She goes to school supervised by a dragon and meets her friends, the MagicGang. Together, they carry out many missions and face villains like the evil Magister who is seeking after Tara to steal her magic to conquer OtherWorld. Besides her missions, Tara leads a personal quest: to find a cure to save her grandfather, who turned himself into a dog by mistake.
Directors: Dan Creteur and Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian
Writers: Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian and Albane Linÿer (based on Tara Duncan by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian)
Executive Producer: Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian (Princess Sam Pictures, France)
Line Producter: Catherine Macresy
Music: Fabrice Aboulker and Damien Roche – Moska Production
Format: 52 x 13’
Target audience: Kids
Technique: 3D digital
Tara Duncan is an 3DCGI fantasy animation series on magic based on the global hit French series of novels of the same name authored by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian. This new 3D animation series has been sold worldwide.
The original novel comprises a saga of 15 volumes, and it has been published in 27 countries and has sold more than ten million copies worldwide. This is the second animation adaptation of the novel series, with the first being a 2D animation series released in 2010.
We interviewed Dan Creteur, the director, and Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, the original author, co-director, and executive producer of Tara Duncan.
Interview with Dan Creteur and Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): What of the series do you think appeals to or entertains its target audiences the most?
Dan Creteur: The series is based on one of the most unique, rich, and fantastic universes for kids. Written by Sophie Audouin Mamikonian, Tara Duncan is not just a strong narrative story of a young girl with magical powers, but it is also a complex universe with its own rules. In each episode, the audience will have the fun to discover the magical lands of the ‘Otherworld’, from the plains on Mentalir to the Hymlia Mountains and the mysterious forest where the Elvirus sacred tree lives. Tara Duncan, this new TV series, is an invitation to dream.
A slice of magical powers, with spices of a magical world, few drops of strong characters: say “May your magic illuminate”, you shake it all! And you have the formula of this incredible advertising show.
HN: The original novel has already been animated in 2D once in 2010. Could you please let us know how and why did this 3D animation adaptation project start?
Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian: I come from a family of producers, directors, and screenwriters. Even though I am a writer first, known for IP such as Tara Duncan, Indiana Teller, Clara Chocolat and 25 books already published.
I am also a super fan of technology. I’m totally into quantum right now, and I have been into AI for 5 years. For me, CGI was just the normal way to mix my love of storytelling and the 21st century, and maybe soon VR and the multiverse. Production is in my DNA.
In order to stay independent, with the help and love of my fantastic husband, I decided to fundraise and finance the whole series through private equity.
To this day, I am the only animated series producer in France to have done this. I believe being the pioneer in such project in France, could open a door. My team and I are very proud of what we have been accomplished till today.
We work with a talented production team, from the film industry, to get the same high-quality images that I dreamed of. We chose motion capture and 3D because we wanted a modern series.
HN: Dan, how and why did you take part in this animation series project?
Dan Creteur: Life is full of surprises, and it’s always funny to think of the first time I’ve met Sophie. I talk about this story quite often. I was in Paris, and we arranged a quick meeting to discuss together. It was supposed to last 1 hour, but we stayed together for more than 3 hours. From the start I felt some kind of connection with her, which you cannot really explain; we were on the same page, same humor, same vision. I was fascinated by her art and her personality, to conviction she had when she was talking about ‘Otherworld’, she can make it believable. I felt like she wanted to make her dreams come true no matter what. It was magical, ambitious, and crazy. When I left the meeting, I directly called the producer and I said without a doubt: “If Sophie wants me as director, I’m on board!”.
HN: What did you take care the most on scriptwriting?
Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian: Rhythm, humor, adventure, and magic make fantastic scripts. I worked super hard with my team to write each script like a short film. Being independent, I was able to create 300 characters, 300 sets and more elements in each scene. Our episodes are immersive. This gives our series a real life. Of course, this increases the budget, but the result is worth it.
HN: Dan, could you please let us know the story behind the visual design works both characters and story universe? Did you refer the first 2D animation adaptation?
Dan Creteur: For the characters, we tried to suggest new elements in the universe, except for the main characters for whom we tried to be as close as possible to the description of the books. Therefore, we decided to not take references from the first 2D animation adaptation, but rather to try something new, to have a new eye on the universe.
I must admit that it was one of the most exciting parts of the creation of the show. The studio had an extraordinary liberty to create characters, create their personalities and a strong design. For the guest characters in general, for example, we received the script of the episodes and with that, we started to make suggestions on the characters, their look, their attitude, their personality, etc… When each character was clear enough, I had the mission to present it to Sophie. When she laughed, I knew it was a go; when she didn’t, I knew I had to do my work again!
HN: Addition to the previous question, what was your most important aim or intention on the overall visual design works?
Dan Creteur: The most important intention was to put Tara Duncan visually for an international market. We wanted to bring life to this project with the ambition to sell it worldwide. My main mission was to understand what the audience would like to see or not. When you have a heroic fantastic universe in your hands, it’s easy to fall in a specific style that only heroic fantasy fans would like. Here, we wanted to open the boundaries and expand the audience for Tara Duncan. We tried to do something fresh and cool, with some spices of American comics, European animation traditions, and Japanese anime inspiration-like transformation sequences for example, while respecting what the fans know from the books.
HN: Could you please let us know the story behind the composition of the music for the series?
Dan Creteur: For the music, we had the chance to work with Fabrice Aboulker, who is the composer and director of the music of the show. All the credit belongs to Sophie and to him. They worked closely together, and she wanted to be sure that the music would be impacting, strong and modern. This is why we decided to work on two main themes: first, the one of Tara which is full of positive vibe and magic; then, the one of Magister which is dark and evil. After that, we expanded them into several moods, e.g., happy Tara, Tara inadventure, Tara of mystery, and emotional Tara.
Moreover, we also wanted the music to tell the story without the need to see the images. I always remember when I had to check the music of an episode: going in a room alone, close the door, put the headphone, close my eyes, and press the play button. When I saw the episode in my head, I knew that the music would be in perfect harmony. It was always a magical moment to do that, a moment of peace in the middle of the busy production of the show.
HN: Could you tell us about the international sales of the series so far? Could you please let me know where outside of France people can watch or will be ablet to watch soon the series?
Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian: Disney Channel France has launched the series last spring to a warm reception as Tara Duncan reached a No. 1 ranking (kids 4-10 / April). Disney Channel Japan and Benelux will follow the French debut with upcoming broadcasts in their respective territories. The first ratings of Gulli France were also very promising and indicating a very good public response, leading the channel to add this series to its weekly schedule.
The series has already been sold in more than 80 countries. Many of the broadcasters launched the series last year, such as RTS (Switzerland), DeAKids (Italy), RTÉ (Ireland), NRK (Norway), Nelonen (Finland), RTBF (Belgium), TVNZ (New-Zealand), and SIC K (Portugal). And some of them will release it soon such as Télé-Québec (Canada). More partners will be announced soon for territories such as UK, Middle East, Indonesia, Singapore, Latin America, Israel, Lithuania, etc.
HN: Sophie, do you have any message about this series to potential international buyers?
Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian: All children, all over the world, love laughter, loyalty, adventure, fantastic landscapes, and nice characters. Even more, a good series needs a good villain, to get more excitement. Just like in the books, you will find all this in our Tara Duncan episodes. Moreover, I wrote a story of girls’ empowerment 35 years ago, in which I share the same values as Tara Duncan.