Ville Vermine, a former industrial city is now controlled by the Monk Mafia. These monsters give Jacques Peuplier, a taciturn colossus, two days to find his little sister. To carry out this investigation Jacques has a secret weapon: He has the power to communicate with objects! From the neighbourhood of abandoned children to the laboratory of an evil geneticist who creates monsters, Jacques pushes his limits and fights his supernatural enemies. In this he can count on the help of Rudy, an abandoned child.
Director: Vincent Kesteloot
Scriptwriters: Vincent Kesteloot (Adaptation from Ville Vermine by Julien Lambert)
Producer: Valentin Grégoire (Squarefish, Belgium)
Target audience: Adults
Techniques: 2D hand drawn / 3D digital
Ville Vermine is an animated feature film project (in development) that attracted me the most among the selected projects for Animation Production Days 2023.
It is animation adaptation of a highly-evaluated bande dessinée series by Belgium artist Julien Lambert that tells a thrilling battle adventure story of a mysterious protagonist that unfolds in a visually appealing fantasy universe.
I interviewed the producer of the film project Valentin Grégoire on the details of the project at the moment.
Interview with Valentin Grégoire
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): What do you think are the key points of this animated feature film project that would be appealing to the prospective audience?
Valentin Grégoire: First of all, the characters are atypical. Jacques’ solitude, Joshua Maeterlinck’s megalomania, Rudy’s passion for insects, Christina’s ambiguity. You can’t read the characters at the beginning, you have to get into the story to understand them.
Then the graphic universe and the design of the characters, which are already strong in the original comic strip, but which we will be able to push into modernity for the animation, in particular by using hybrid 2d, 3d and real time techniques.
Finally, the film’s rhythm and narrative structure have been designed to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat. We decided to make a film that is somewhere between an auteur film and an audience success. Indeed, I think that too few European films in adult animation have this logic, since we work here on the basis of subsidies, unlike American or Japanese productions.
HN: Could you please let us know the film’s story, in brief?
Valentin Grégoire: Jacques Peuplier is a loner who has the power to communicate with objects. He would have stayed away from humans all his life, if he hadn’t met Joshua Maeterlinck, an old scientist who fears death and finds the human race despicable and devastating. Jacques will have to join forces with Rudy, an abandoned child, Christina, a young rebel, and Vanessa, an independent woman, to stop this scientist who wants to replace humans with insect humans by insect men.
HN: How did this film project start?
Valentin Grégoire: After several attempts as a young producer to develop my own TV or film projects, I started looking to adapt an existing universe, thinking that it would eventually be faster than starting from scratch. I came across this comic book published by Sarbacane, a French publisher, and I fell in love with it, for the reasons mentioned above. When I started negotiating the rights, I realised that the author was Belgian, which only made it more attractive to adapt this work.
After negotiating the rights, I got in touch with the original author, Julien Lambert, and we started to find partners for the project. We were lucky enough to find Vincent Kesteloot, who after several successful feature films, wanted to take on more intimate projects in order to retain a certain amount of writing freedom. So we developed the script together, and we are currently at the beginning of the search for financing.
HN: Could you please let us know about the original comic series? For example, some basic information on the original comic series, and its attractiveness from your point of view.
Valentin Grégoire: Villevermine is a comic book, a fantasy thriller in two volumes, released in 2018. But it is a universe that the author has been developing since his studies at Saint-Luc Liège in Belgium. Halfway between the humorous and supernatural worlds of Adèle Blanc-Sec (Tardi) and those of Hellboy (Mignola), influenced by the strange and smoky atmospheres of Jean Ray, Villevermine was an opportunity to imagine a place where everything is possible. A post-industrial city, where alchemy meets transhumanism.
After the success of the first two volumes, which form a complete story, the publisher has ordered two additional volumes from Julien Lambert, based on the same universe, proof that the public likes it.
For my part, I like the influences mentioned above, which form an atypical universe, and the fantastic detective story style, a sort of modern Théophile Gautier, an atmosphere and a style that we don’t see much in animated films. Moreover, the fighting, thriller, adventure and twists and turns are very well combined and I can already imagine the success of such a movie in theatres.
Finally, the basic themes also touched me, notably transhumanism, the relationship with others or communitarianism.
HN: How are you developing the visuals for the film, so far?
Valentin Grégoire: For the moment, we are only basing ourselves on the sets and characters designed by Julien. The current character design is already well established, and all we need to do is to adapt it to the animation. We have several concept artists in mind, but we want to move forward with the writing and financing of the development first, and then think about the design.
HN: Could you please let us know what stage this project is currently in and a rough timeline for the future of the project?
Valentin Grégoire: We have currently completed the full script of the film, and we are now on the second version. We are looking for partners (co-producers, sales agents, distributors, funds, etc.) to set up a development budget. We hope to raise funds by September. We will then move into the development phase, which will involve refining the writing, creating the storyboard, and designing the characters. At the same time, we will conduct table reads to record temporary voices, improve dialogue, and work on rhythm. At this stage, we can also start thinking about the music.