INTERVIEW: 2021 Off To A Roaring Start with Disney’s “Gigantosaurus”
Olivier Lelardoux, Senior VP of Cyber Group Studios, is the series director of the Disney Junior animated series Gigantosaurus. Season 2 premieres. Lelardoux talks about what goes into making the dino show in France, America… and over modern technology.
Jackson Murphy: What initially attracted you to Jonny Duddle’s book to turn it into a seri
Olivier Lelardoux: I’m a big fan of Jonny Duddle’s work and artworks. He’s an absolutely amazing artist – very humble and talented. And the books amazed me at the first sight. The style of the dinos. The crazy, beautiful and fantastical environments he creates.
JM: I love the look of the show. You scored a two-season renewal at the end of Season 1. That must’ve been a really good feeling. Were you surprised by that?
OL: I was very surprised and absolutely thankful with the audience. The first season was a great success not only in the U.S. but all over the world. And because of that, the top executive people decided to order two new seasons immediately. The frustration of the audience between two seasons is terrible. You love a series and you have to wait one or two years for more episodes. It’s really frustrating. So we’re going straightforward. No frustration. It’s also better in terms of production and creation and direction because we stay with the characters and writers and production team longer.
JM: So you get the two-season renewal. Do you map out both seasons or do you really take it one at a time?
OL: No, we map out everything. From the first… last one on… And we also spread the new features, characters and backgrounds. Everything’s really well-balanced. That’s a good thing about producing a lot of episodes at once.
JM: And besides being on Disney Junior, Season 1 was also available on Disney+ and Netflix this year. Have you noticed a kind of second wave of reaction from families of Season 1 over the course of this year?
OL: Yeah. The release on Netflix helped for audiences to know Gigantosaurus and all the characters. We feel that we had more reaction on Twitter and Facebook. It’s definitely helped a lot.
JM: That’s great. My cousin’s son is about three years old and he is really into dinosaurs. He just loves them. I know he’s not alone because so many kids love dinosaurs. What do you think it is about the attraction between very young kids and dinosaurs?
OL: That’s a good question. It’s universal. Kids in America, France, Asia… it’s all the same. They are powerful and you’re not super afraid of them because they don’t exist anymore! Kids, even at 3, 4 or 5 years old, know that dinosaurs existed in the past. They are real creatures – but not anymore – so it’s a mix of fantasy, reality and science. It’s [about] connecting to nature and the environment. And it’s also a lot of fun. And I think kids love to be scared a little bit. It’s fun to be scared.
JM: (laughs) Yes. And do you look at science and images of dinosaurs when designing the characters and even the backgrounds?
OL: Absolutely. The value we have in the show – it’s of course the style of Jonny Duddle’s arts, but it’s also from the new characters we created. The book has a few characters and a few environments, so we expand this for the TV show. All the new characters… we kept the style from Jonny but they’re all based on real dinos. We read books, we watch videos, we read lots of science articles about the environment at that time. Each species is very specific with very specific skills. We based the skills for each dino on the characterizations.
JM: That’s great to help kids visualize but also learn. And the relationship between the four youngsters and Giganto is interesting because the kids are excited and positive and fun and want to get Giganto involved but he’s got a certain way about him… you don’t want to mess with him, but at the same time he still cares about them.
OL: This character is like a living legend in the savannah in the Cretaceous [Age]. The image of the big brother or mysterious uncle we have in the family: we admire him but we don’t know so much about him. It’s a little bit of that. We keep that very strong in both scenes, even if we have more interaction between Gigantosaurus and the four little dinos in the new season. Each dino has a very particular characterization and point of view on the stories and environment. Each time Giganto is doing something, each character is developing the way they are feeling what Giganto is doing. You have four dinos and four angles on what he is doing. It’s a very interesting way to develop the story.
JM: “Rocky the Record-Breaker” is half of the first episode of Season 2. How was it coming up with all the records for Rocky to try to break?
OL: It’s coming from the minds of… we have some crazy writers. We feel like certain challenges could interest Rocky. It’s pure fun. It’s pure invention.
JM: They’re entertaining. You’re in France and you have a great relationship with Disney here in America. I would imagine in putting Season 1 together (and this second season) that you were doing a lot of Zoom calls even before Zoom calls became the norm.
OL: Yeah. Every week we are in communication. All the time. Of course by email a lot because it’s all about scripting, storyboarding and animation to be approved. Sometimes it’s better to communicate by email or by text because you need time to think about what you are saying with the story. Writing things gives you the time to develop and think about what you’re feeling about the series. But yes, we are absolutely connecting all the time by phone and we check in with the head of writing. She lives in New York and we talk every week.
Before COVID, she was coming every three months to Paris for meetings with the writing team in France and brainstorming sessions. It was great. The storyboarders – the artists and animators – joined in. It was very nice. The human relationship at that time was great. And then we lost a little bit of that [in 2020] of course, but with Zoom and the technology, hopefully we did it well.
JM: What excites you about 2021 when it comes to this show and in general for you?
OL: The premiere is exciting. We’re still in production of Season 3. We are absolutely right on time and within the budget. The team is working very well. I wish the same for 2021. And of course with less issues with COVID. Production is still running for 10 to 12 months from now. So just keep running the production like it is now – it’s already great. And we will see how the public will react to the first episodes! We have our fingers crossed!
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