To produce my student presentation I was inspired to choose characters that I grew up with and mattered to me. Asterix and Obelix have been my childhood companions and its creators, Goscinny and Uderzo followed a path very similar to me. From illustration to animation, they brought their characters to life with some much humor and truth, there was no other animators I could have chosen.
Uderzo was born in 1927 in Fishes. He was born daltonian so most of his work was inked by other people including his brother Marcel on Asterix.
It’s from reading Mickey Mouse that he comes across comics. From then, his passion for Disney develops and he dreams of working as an animator.
Uderzo starts showing talent from the age of 12. At this age, he starts drawing characters with big noses which will become his signature style. He starts his career as an illustrator in many newspapers and books.
In 1945 he works as an in betweener on a short film and is so disappointed by the result that he decides to give up on animation.
His influences are Walt Disney, more specifically Mickey from Floyd Gottfredson, but also realists illustrators from the american strips golden age such as Alex Raymond, Leonard Starr or Stan Drake.
That’s how in the 50s, Uderzo develops a realistic style, with deep precision and fine inking as shown in his comic “Tanguy and Laverdure”.
Goscinny was born in 1926 in Paris. His family moved to Buenos Aires where he spends his childhood.
Very early on he develops an interest in cinema and animation, from peplum to western to musicals. He is fascinated by Walt Disney and his movies such as Mickey, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio”.
He wants to be an animator and goes to New York after the war in hopes of meeting and working for Walt Disney. Problem is, the Disney studios are in California, not New York, and even though Goscinny illustrates his own stories, his drawings are not good enough.
In 1951, Goscinny and Uderzo are sent to the World Press offices in Paris to work on the same project. That is where they meet. They are 24 and 25 years old.
They immediately start working together. Uderzo draws, Goscinny writes. Their first character is “Ompah-Pah”, a native american hero that fails to find success in France or the US.
In 1959, they create the magazine “Pilote”, a magasine to publish comics for kids, embedded with french culture.
During a mi-august afternoon in 1959 in Bobigny, when it is very warm and the two friends have been drinking pastis, they are brainstorming on new characters. They want a very french story. Goscinny tells Uderzo: ” Give me the times that marked french history”. Prehistory and cro-magnon have been done. But not the Gauls. In 15 minutes they had the story. They make extensive researches about the time in history books and painting.
They come up with the basic idea: a small village during roman occupation, a bard, a druid, Caesar,… historical cliches that every french person knows and can relate to.
On October 29, 1959, the first story about Asterix, their new gaul hero, is out in “Pilote”.
It’s a success and only two years later, in 1961, the first Asterix comic book, “Asterix the Gaul” is out.
The story of Asterix is about the adventures of a small village of indomptable Gauls as they resist the Roman occupation in 50BC. They do that thanks to their druid who created a magic potion that gives temporary strength to anyone who drinks it. We mainly follow Asterix and Obelix as they go on adventures and come back to the village to have a banquet and tell their stories.
Asterix is the main character. Goscinny describes him “ugly but clever enough to make it”. He was made very short to accentuate his comical character. His head is as big as his body. His blond hair and mustaches are characteristic of the Gaul ancestors while his big nose is Uderzo’s signature style.
Obelix was created to balance out Asterix. He is tall and has mustaches like the Gauls. He was made round to be the exact physical opposite of Asterix. The story says he got this physique from falling into the magic potion when he was a kid. His arms and legs are so short he cannot cross them.
Asterix and Obelix were created as antithesis from the 1950s superheroes like Superman. They are not good looking and they have flaws. Flaws characteristic of the french people. For instance, Asterix gets angry easily, just like the french.
Asterix is a hit. 34 albums (24 in the first 20 years), translated into 107 languages and dialectes, 11 movies, a theme park, 100 thesis, hundreds of by products and 325 millions of sold albums.
In the 60s, Uderzo has to give up all his other projects to focus exclusively on Asterix.
The first movie comes out in 1967, only six years after the first publication of Asterix. The movie is put on the works by Jean Dargaux, an associate of Uderzo and Goscinny. In the 60s, Jean Deloux, a researcher in television finalizes the animographe which is a machine that was invented to develop fast and cheap animations for advertising for instance.
Its optical system allowed to animate 1 to 8 drawings per second instead of 24 while still keeping fluidity..
Margaux develops “Asterix the Gaul” without telling Goscinny and Uderzo. They discover it at a private screening and do not approve. They want to shut it down but it is too late, cinemas are already interested. The movie comes out on December 13, 1967 in 60 cinemas. It is a hit, the movie makes 2 500 000 entries.
While this movie is out, Uderzo and Goscinny learn another movie is in the works. They shut it down and tell Dargaux to make an animation they could at least supervise artistically.
That is how “Asterix and Cleopatra” comes out. Uderzo draws the storyboard and Goscinny writes the scenario. The movie requires more than 150 people working on it for 8 months. It has more than 5000 drawings and 300 backgrounds.
At this time, animation in France is a flop. There were no successful animation movies since Paul Grimault. The search for animators is complicate, skills are lacking. At this time, people learn by themselves.
Uderzo and Goscinny have two ideas: first, they decide to recruit a team of animators employed in small structures that will be happy to find the mood of a real studio. Second, they ask the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris to create and support with them an animation section at the Gobelins.
The first movie they make is “The 12 Tasks of Asterix”. Goscinny writes and original scenario and describes every camera angle. He is the director. Uderzo makes the storyboards.
Production starts in autumn 1974 and the movie comes out on October 20,1976. Once again, the movie is a success.
However, the bliss is short lived. In 1977, Goscinny dies of a heart attack. “Studios Idefix” closes and it takes Uderzo years to draw again and more than 10 years for a new Asterix movie to come out.
After those three first movies, and despite Goscinny’s death, the audience asks for more.
After “The 12 Tasks of Asterix”, “Asterix and Caesar’s Surprise” comes out in 1985, then “Asterix in Britain” in 1986, “Asterix and the Big Fight” in 1989, “Asterix and the Indians” in 1990, “Asterix and the Vikings” in 2006 and finally “Asterix and the Mansion of Gods” in 2014.
This is a late start for 3D. The reason being Uderzo was scared 3D would not render his characters properly. It took Louis Clichy (a Gobelin Animation alumni) and Alexandre Astier to convince him to let them work on the project.
The 3D movie required 4 years of work and a team of 20 people in a studio in Charleroi. What makes this movie different is the process. The movie was voiced first before any image was produced. This allowed the actors to give as much personality to the voices as they wanted.
Here are my references for this research: