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Christophe Vacher is a multi-talented background and visual development artist whose list of credits is as impressive as his oevre. During the last two decades Christophe has worked on numerous high profile productions, and he has recently been awarded two Daytime Emmy Awards in succession for his wonderful work on the "Transformers Prime" series.

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CE:  Christophe Vacher, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? What did you study and what were your career plans?

CV:  I am French and grew up in a remote central area of France that looks very much like Ireland and is famous for its Celtic/Roman past and dark legends.

I attended a fine arts school there for one year. I kind of got tired of it after that year, mainly because there was no program geared towards illustration, comic books or animation. Despite this, I learned some good tips there to start exploring oil and acrylic painting on my own. I then went to a University for the History of the Arts for two years. This course was my introduction to medieval architecture, which later became part of my artistic repertoire. I then worked as an illustrator for some residential architects for a while and also became a semi-professional comic book artist. I was about to do a comic book series with the French comic book veteran Philippe Caza (one of the founders of the magazine "Metal Hurlant", the original French magazine that gave birth to the American magazine "Heavy Metal"), when I entered the animation industry.

During the "second Golden Age of Animation" in the mid-90s, I moved to the US, and that changed all my plans for the future.

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CE:  You were working for a number of small studios in France when you joined the Disney Paris unit. How did this big break come about and what did you work on for Disney?

CV:  I began to work in animation in 1989, on "Ninja Turtles", and worked my way through a number of smaller studios in France. I finally ended up in Paris where I entered the Disney studios in 1992. It was just perfect timing. Disney had a studio there at that time that was expanding, and they were looking for people. At Disney, I became head of backgrounds on my first animated feature film: "A Goofy movie". Following that, I worked on the 'featurette' "Runaway Brain" and "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" (the great thing was that the cathedral was 15 minutes from us, and I can tell you: by now, I know every single statue on the front of that building!).

After that, I could negotiate my way to the US in 1996 and worked on movies such as "Hercules", "Dinosaur", "Fantasia 2000", "Tarzan", and "Treasure Planet".

In February of 2002, I quit Disney to pursue a solo career, full time. I completely retrained in 3D CG animation and returned to animation for the movies “Sharktale” and "Flushed away" at the Dreamworks Studios.

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CE:  A few years ago you were the art director on the visually stunning “9”. Tell us a little bit about your work for this production, and how you became involved in it.

CV:  At that time, I was art directing the animated segment of the Disney movie "Enchanted". A friend of mine, who was doing the production design on "9", called me and asked me if I was interested in art directing "9" (they had been through 2 art directors already and were really trying to fill the position for good).

It was a perfect opportunity for me. My friend knew that I liked darker, edgier animation projects that could also maintain a high quality level.
I said I was interested, but that I was still on "Enchanted". They said they would wait for 3 weeks.

This was at the end of December, 2006. On Friday, the 12th of January, 2007, I finished my work on "Enchanted". I was finished with packing on Saturday, jumped on a plane on Sunday, and on Monday started working on "9" in Luxembourg, in Europe, where the movie was made. Crazy.

"9" eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, where it was finished. But that is another story...

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CE:  Given that you often focus on backgrounds and colors in your work, to what extent do you take the characters of a project into consideration, as you prepare for a new production?

CV:  Taking the characters into consideration, paradoxically, is an essential part of my work. An art director's job is to modulate light, color and backgrounds in order to effectively support the character's action and storytelling. In essence, if an art director does his job well, the audience should have a sense of the beautiful or fascinating environment, but be entirely focused on the characters.

The darker aspects of "9" actually made this easier to do, because the very dramatic, theatrical lighting drove the eye of the viewer to the characters.

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CE:  In 2011 you were awarded the Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation" for your work on the “Transformers Prime” series. Could you tell us what your role in this production is and how you came to be involved with it?

CV:  I got involved with "Transformers Prime" through Todd Waterman, one of the directors of the series who had seen my work on "9". He introduced me to the supervising director, Dave Hartman, who hired me.

On this series I do the same thing I did on "9", namely... art direction. For a number of reasons, TV studios can have different policies than feature film studios regarding titles, so I didn't get my art director's title. Instead, my title became "Supervising Color Designer". But in an ironic turn of events, I eventually got a Daytime Emmy Award specifically for that position.

I have just been informed that I won another Emmy Award this year, for the same position. I also have a new title for season 2 (which has been on air since February): VFX Art Director.

I am going back to the studios in a few weeks time, for season 3.

For more of Christophe's wonderful work please visit his website:

http://www.vacher.com/

To suggest books, email...

info@charactersengage.com

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