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INTERVIEWS WITH ANIMATORS: Amaël Isnard

Blake Harris 04.19.2016

In this week’s installment, we speak with the French Animator Amaël Isnard. 

You might remember Amaël Isnard from our PICK OF THE WEEK series, when we featured his explainer video Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion last month. To learn more about how that explainer was made, how he got into the animation industry and how he approaches creating unique characters, we spoke with to get the inside scoop.

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Blake Harris: As you know, we really enjoyed your animation work on Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion. I believe this is your sixth explainer video for the Royal Observatory Greenwich. How did you begin working with them?

Amaël Isnard: The Observatory decided to make some explainer videos like this and they got in touch with Beakus—the animation studio I work with—and they suggested that maybe I would be good for this opportunity. They asked me to pitch some illustrations and then, basically, I won the job. And the first video I did for them, it is called How Do We Know How Old The Sun Is?

Blake Harris: We really enjoyed that one as well. Especially the boxing match between Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler.

Amaël Isnard: Ah yes, thank you!

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Blake Harris: I detect an accent. You live in France, yes?

Amaël Isnard: Yes, I live in Paris.

Blake Harris: Did you grow up in France as well?

Amaël Isnard: Yes. I grew up in Lyon, which is quite nice. And then I studied in Arles, which is in the South of France.

Blake Harris: Did you go into animation right after graduating?

Amaël Isnard: Yes, straight after university I worked in the animation industry. But it took a few years to develop my illustration style and to get represented as a director from an animation studio.

Blake Harris: Speaking of your style, when you were growing up—or even now—what would you say are some of your biggest influences?

Amaël Isnard: I would say Tex Avery cartoons (and the wacky characters), and later Wallace and Gromit films, from English studios Aardman. And more recently Wes Anderson’s films. That’s a big influence in terms of having a great care for composition and colors.

Blake Harris: I can see that. In fact, now I can’t help imaging Newton in Space as a little Wes Anderson short.

Amaël Isnard: [laughing] That would be nice!

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Blake Harris: In addition to color and composition, I can also see a similarity in character. In our PICK OF THE WEEK, I noted that your character animation worked really well for the piece. Tell me about your approach to character work. What’s the process like for you from script to screen?

Amaël Isnard: After I get the script, I try to create characters that are original. My approach is to design them in a minimal way. I like when they are very simple and geometric. I try to use very little color as well.

Blake Harris: And what about the personality of your characters?

Amaël Isnard: I like to make them funny. And weird sometimes, I would say. I try to make characters that could generate comedy in different situations.

Blake Harris: My last question for you is about explainer videos in general. What tips would you give a young animator who is interested in making explainer videos?

Amaël Isnard: My advice would be to not be scared to do something too simple. Because I find that it really works well when it’s very clear. I mean, both the voiceover and the image have to be very clear for people to understand. I also think it is very important to make some well-composed, beautiful images. One more tip is to put comedy in explainer videos. It can be a great thing because it really makes videos like this entertaining to watch. This is especially helpful when the topic is something scientific. In this case, using comedy and visual metaphors can really make a difference.

Blake Harris: I completely agree.

Amaël Isnard: Yeah, many times this is what viewers remember the most. For example, in the video we talked about earlier [How Do We Know How Old The Sun Is?], I needed to try and show the universe was expanding. So I drew a fat character eating cake; getting fatter and fatter. I don’t know why that one came to mind, but I remember that one in particular.

Blake Harris: You probably remembered that one because you were spot-on earlier: comedy and visual metaphors really do stick with viewers.

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To learn more about Amaël Isnard and stay up to date with his work, visit his website at amaelisnard.com. In the meantime, check out “Seeing the Invisible,” a new explainer video that Isnard just completed for the Royal Obsevatory Greenwich:

Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

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