Ah, ah ! Vous ne vous attendiez pas à ça, mais ce mois-ci, il y a un petit bonus.
Sophie Decroisette, directrice d'écriture des trois premières saison de Code Lyoko et scénariste sur la quatrième nous a accordé une interview. Espérons que ça vous plaise.
ATTENTION : Cette vidéo traite des quatre saisons de la série et contient donc des spoilers !
English version :
Interview with Sophie Decroisette, head writer of Code Lyoko
By Pykar et al., on June 26th, 2013
SD: Let me introduce myself: my name is Sophie Decroisette, I’m a scriptwriter, and I have been the head writer of Code Lyoko. For the most part.
Q1: What animated series/cartoons [there is no distinction between the two in French] have you been working on before Code Lyoko?
SD: Huh! Many! As I have begun in 1992, I have been involved in a lot of them. I have been working with Serge Rosenzweig on Caroline and her friends, Iznogoud, Nanook of the North, Fantômette, Léo and Popi – this was the first series for which I was head writer. I have also been working on Jim Button, Highlander the animated series, Night Hood, Ivanhoë… I’m sure I am forgetting a lot of them, but anyway, Léo and Popi was the first one for which I was head writer. And then, Code Lyoko came about... Er… I have also worked on SOS bout du monde [no English title available]… Actually, I have been working for a lot of different companies so I have done a little bit of everything... And then, starting from 2002, I have been focusing on Code Lyoko, so it took me a lot of time.
Q2: How did you end up working on Code Lyoko?
SD: Actually, I had just done Malo Korrigan, which had been quite complicated; and I was taking a break because my first child was just born, and Moonscoop – which was called Antéfilms back then – contacted me to offer me to become head writer of Code Lyoko. I hesitated. I was a little bit familiar with science fiction because I had read science fiction books, but never practiced… I met Jérôme [Mouscadet] and we got along very soon… So this was it! There was already the writer of Teddygozilla [the first episode], Frédéric Lenoir, working on the project, and I started working with him and Carlo de Boutiny, who wrote the original concept… Well actually, he arrived just after… A first concept was written by students from Les Gobelins, Thomas Romain and Tania Palumbo ; and then this concept was narratively expanded upon by Carlo de Boutiny. Then Fred Lenoir came… If I remember correctly. I am not sure because I wasn’t there at the time. Fred Lenoir came to try to make everything consistent with Carlo’s help, and a first script was written. Then I came, and I started to direct the writing the first scripts, and so on… This was in 2002.
Q3: concerning the original project (Garage Kids): what had already been modified when you arrived? What did you modify yourself?
SD: Actually, what we have mostly been doing was finding strong motivations for the characters. This was especially the case for Jérémie. During a meeting, one writer, Françoise Charpiat, suggested that Jérémie want to get Aelita back on earth. This idea was really what allowed having something strong in season 1.
Q4: So what was the original idea for the plot of Garage Kids, before Aelita was introduced? What would have been the story, if nothing had been changed?
SD: Well, this was just “junior high school students, who were traveling to a parallel universe”. But everything technical regarding this was yet to clarify: how the supercomputer worked, how the scanners worked, how translation worked… Everything, the holomap… There was really nothing. Everything was adjusted gradually. Our idea with Jérôme was that the more precise we are regarding technologies, the more the plot will be interesting. Besides, we had to clarify all of this for the consistency in the episodes. At the beginning, I really just saw a teaser that was focusing on images, there were great ideas in the images, notably the transition from one universe to the other, but plot-wise, it was just « They travel from one universe to the other », with no explanation on « how » and « why ». They had no real motivation, they were fighting Xana, which was represented as black spheres, something like this, but none of this was clearly defined. Our job, with the other writers, was to try to introduce « scientific accuracy ».
Q5: What is it you like the most in Code Lyoko?
SD: I think that, together, we managed to do something with plot, mystery and a narrative continuity in a cyberpunk style that works really well. I also had the feeling that the characters were getting more and more developed; the fact that they were growing up, and getting more and more obsessed in their personal motivations was something that fascinated me. And we had a lot of fun with everything regarding the backstory and its mysteries. This is what I really liked. This, and the characters. These small universes… The more you write them, the more you like them. This was really fun.
Q6: What is your favorite character?
SD: As a member of the audience, I like Jim very much, because it is a 100% comedy character. In the gang, they were all interesting to handle, because every one of them had a narrative role. I like Odd. Actually, I tend to like comedy characters. But there wasn’t a specific character that I liked less than all the others.
Q7: Would you say that these characters are similar to you psychologically? Did you give them much of your own personality?
SD: Probably! But the other writers as well! Jérémie… My husband is a scientist, so I probably put a little bit of my husband in him. These mathematical obsessions… Some other authors like Jean-Rémi François were very good at writing Odd. They were very funny and caustic authors, and they were very good with Odd or Jim for instance. I recognize very much of myself in Yumi, because she is serious and reserved. So, I probably put some of myself in Yumi. And even in Mrs Hertz! (Excerpt from Laughing Fit) I also think that we all put our memories from junior high school, our personal issues, for instance Odd’s election as the class representative… We all remember this, the authors as well as the audience, so this was something everyone could relate to… How to pick up girls, how to get constantly turned down like Odd… I think everyone of us could relate to this.
Q8: If you didn’t have any constraint whatsoever, what would you have done differently?
SD: Jérôme [Mouscadet] is the one you should ask this question. If he’d had less financial constraints, he would certainly have done a prettier 3D, but as far as I am concerned, I didn’t really feel restrained, regarding writing. Actually, a writer without constraint… This is very complicated. Constraints are part of the job. They are beneficial to the stories. If they had told me « write everything you want », I wouldn’t have known what to write. What I would have liked to do is an episode where the currently unknown backstory of Franz Hopper is revealed. Ah, yes! We would have liked to do a full-length movie –this was actually considered – in the universe of Code Lyoko, with a crazy adventure involving time travel. I would have liked that.
Q9: What would have been the plot?
SD: We had a script… I think it was a little bit like The Terminator. They would travel to the future and see the consequences of Xana’s power. They had to solve the problem in the present day, so that the future wouldn’t become like this. I think it was this. We had actually written several scripts… Actually, there already is a special episode, which is almost a full-length movie. You see what I am referring to… This is where we explain how the supercomputer was discovered. This was during season 3. We had fun writing this, because this was an unusual format. But I still would have liked to write a full-length movie.
Q10: Would the topic of this project for the full-length movie (the bad future, and so on) have been suitable for a movie aimed at children?
SD: Yes, it was okay for children. You’re right, it was quite dark, but there was nothing shocking, nothing traumatic. But anyway, Code Lyoko is a somewhat dark series. It’s fun, but still… Have you noticed that the heroes are constantly failing? With the writers, we were considering this to be part of the series. The heroes are constantly defeated by Xana! They almost never win. They resist. So this series is actually quite harsh. The heroes are constantly making mistakes and losing. I think this is part of what makes the series great.
Q11: So you are saying that Françoise Charpiat had the original idea for Jérémie’s motivation to be Aelita’s materialization. But was the character itself created for the occasion? Or before?
SD: She had already been created. When I arrived, all the characters were there, the school was there, the return to the past was there… I was the one who explained it, however. Fred Lenoir was looking for a reason why everything is not devastated when Xana attacks. Otherwise, it would have been like « everyone knows there is a super-powerful entity causing problems everywhere », so he decided that there was a time travel device, but he didn’t explain it. I asked myself how to explain the time travel, and we wrote the thing about the supercomputer with the quantum problem, and so on… So there was this, there was Aelita, but there wasn’t yet Jérémie’s motivation to get her back. This is really Françoise Charpiat’s idea. I remember, we did a meeting, and she said « I wonder whether it would be interesting if Jérémie wanted to do this ». And this solved a lot of issues.
Q12: So, the concept for Xana was already defined when you arrived.
SD: Yes, but only visually. He wasn’t explained. My work on Code Lyoko was really to establish narrative foundations for many things, with the help of the writers. About every question that could be asked. Like, okay, there is a scanner, how does it work? They arrive on Lyoko… How does everything work? The super-arrows, the life points… We decided that the Roachsters had a certain amount of life points, that the arrows dealt a certain amount of damage. We proceeded a bit like Tabletop RPG players for this part, with character sheets very much like RPG character sheets.
Q13: In the first version of the Bible, were Xana’s nature and mode of action established? Or was this imagined afterwards?
SD: In the Bible, he was described as an evil entity which wanted to take control of the world, but there were no mention of the specters, no mention of the fact that they come through the power outlets. Well, maybe it was mentioned, but it wasn’t clearly decided. From season 2 onwards, Jérôme and I started to think of an ambition for Xana. We thought that what he wanted was control, like every machine. Human enslavement. On this basis, we started to develop this, we thought of what he could do to enslave humans, taking control of weaponry, building robots. We thought of what it would mean, to enslave humans.
Q14: Did the RPG-like design of the rules restrict the possibilities for the plot?
SD: Yes, but this wasn’t a problem. This is the basic principle for plots: you have rules, and you need to think of how to tell your story with these rules. Sometimes, we came up with new rules, or ways to get around the rules. But as soon as the rules were established – and this is really what we managed to do with Jérôme -, for instance, as soon as the rules for the holomap were defined, we weren’t going to say “who cares about the holomap? We can do as if it weren’t there”. If we had established in one episode that Jérémie can locate Odd, we need to have a jamming device to justify that Jérémie cannot locate him. A lot of episodes revolve around a glitch. Well, with computers, glitches are quite easy to handle: there is a glitch, which generates other rules that need to be taken into account. Code Lyoko was this: a whole set of rules to handle narratively. We had a lot of fun coming up with new rules, for instance, why a tower would spontaneously activate itself, and so on… (Excerpt from ”Is anybody out there”). For us writers, when we have something a little bit unusual to handle, we have to integrate it to the already established rules or have it become the new rule. It shouldn’t feel inconsistent, like, the audience would think “they got me there, in the previous episode, they said it worked one way, now it’s another…” This is really something that I hate. I think that, in order to be respectful to the audience, you need to take the holomap into account if it were present in previous episodes.
Q15: At the season 4 preview (in 2007), you referred to Xana as a “she”. Why?
SD: This is funny because… I think no one was really sure about this, because it is an entity [feminine in French], but also a program [masculine in French]. Well, since it is mainly a program, he is most certainly a “he” [there is no “it” in French]. Also, since Xana ends with an “a”, I had a tendency to see him as a “she”. But it is “un programme”. Actually, he is not really definable… Something we really struggled against was the fact that the production wanted us to depict Xana. We have always struggled against this. We wanted him to be an entity that no one can represent.
Q16: In the episodes, it seems like Xana gets inspiration from what the heroes are currently doing at school for his attacks. Does he do this deliberately? Or is it just some kind of plot gimmick?
SD: Well, Xana attacks them in particular, so he is expected to take every possible way to attack them in the school, so it is true that, if they are in the dining hall, he will try to attack the dining hall. But you’re right, plot-wise; it is always interesting to make the subplots converge; to make the topic of the action subplot coincide with the topic of the sitcom subplot, so that there is a general topic to the episode. So yes, there is a will to make the subplots converge. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, Odd is attacked by a food monster. It doesn’t necessarily reflect anything happening on Lyoko. At least I don’t think so. Sometimes, when we were able to come up with nice connections, it was good to have a general topic for the episode.
Q17: There are many references to well-known movies, especially in season 1.
SD: Yes, in the whole team, we are movie fans, and we all have the same references so, yes, for instance, there is one episode, which is really a zombie movie. This was the point: we wanted to make a zombie movie. The authors write their stories according to what they like, but yes, this is completely deliberate. This is something the authors did by themselves, but sometimes, I came up with an idea that I liked. For instance, in season 4, I wasn’t the one in charge, Bruno Regeste was, and he wanted an author to write an episode focused on Jim. He said: “I want an episode on Jim where his secrets are revealed”. We had previously established this gimmick of him saying “I’d rather not talk about it”. There was a whole lot of mystery around him, and he wanted an episode on this matter, so he told an author to write an episode on Jim. Some episode concepts emerge this way. And the writers are very much inspired by this. Jim’s character is very inspiring. We had a list, in the bible, of every job Jim has been doing in his life. This was very funny because the list is huge. He mentions a lot of them, but still…
Q18: By the way, did he really occupy all these positions?
SD: We don’t know. This is a mystery. For some, this is probably the case. Others are certainly exaggerations (or fantasies). We wanted this to remain unclear. At the beginning, it was just a running gag. Jean-Rémi [François], I think, came up with this line. He put it in a dialogue. We found it so funny that we decided to use it again. And we started to write scenes where he would say: “this reminds me of when I was a secret agent” or lab technician, or stuff, “but I’d rather not talk about it”. And this became a running gag. And, after a while, we had so many jobs to handle that we found it interesting to write an episode on this matter. But the jobs themselves, he probably practiced them, but he probably never was a secret agent, because there is an episode where he messes up – what was the title of the episode? False lead, that’s it. Clearly, he isn’t very good at being a secret agent… Or even a cameraman.
Pykar et al.: Maybe he still worked for them in some way.
SD: Possibly, but we really don’t know. The idea was to remain very mysterious about this.
Q19: How did you get the idea to begin the story “starting from the middle” with Teddygozilla?
SD: This is because the beginning was written afterwards. When I began, there was no origin story at all. Nobody had thought about it. Jérôme, the authors and I began to ask ourselves how it worked and how they discovered this thing, because the bible only said “they have discovered a supercomputer”. Actually, it wasn’t even a “supercomputer”. But that’s it, we didn’t know “how”. So we started to ask ourselves questions : “why is it on the island?”, I had to come up with what happened before, why Xana wants to attack them in particular, and how it is possible that there is a supercomputer in this factory. Who built it? I was the one who came up with Franz Hopper. We also needed to decide why Aelita was there. This was not explained, this was not yet written. We had to think about all of this. Thus, since it had been written afterwards, we decided to make a two-part episode to explain all this to the audience.
Q20: So there was no intention to make things more mysterious this way?
SD: It was only mysterious because it wasn’t written yet. Nobody had established the basics of the series. They were established afterwards.
Q21: In season 2, it is revealed that Aelita had always been human. In the bible of the first season, was she not an artificial intelligence?
SD: This was the case when I arrived. But we thought - after the meeting where it was decided that Jérémie would want to bring Aelita back on earth - that it would be funny to decide that she originally came from earth. Also, it was working well with the story behind Franz Hopper, who was a scientist… But yes, when I arrived, she was an entity, but there was no real foundation. Actually, I think the explanation was that she was the one in charge of harmonization of the universe and everything, but the functioning of Xana, her functioning, the functioning of the territories, none of this was really organized. There was no rule yet.
Pykar et al.: The dialogues in season 1 made it seem that she was programmed this way.
SD: Yes, but we had to come up with explanations which allowed the next season to bounce back after the previous one. In season 2, she is on earth and… The fact that we discover that she was always human was gradually decided. Code Lyoko wasn’t built in one piece. We have developed it for ten years. It was built gradually. The other supercomputers, the replikas… All this came during the writing of season 4. We never thought of that before. Each time the production told us to make a new season, we had to think, with Jérôme, of what new stuff could possibly happen.
Q22 part 1: Some viewers found it disturbing that the heroes would jeopardize the safety of everybody in the world just to save Aelita.
SD: This is what I like in Code Lyoko, yes.
Q22 part 2: Did you make her human so that her survival appears more important?
SD: No, really, the fact that she is human was only decided because we wanted a mystery on earth. This choice was only made for Franz Hopper’s backstory. There was no ethical consideration behind this. I never had this in mind. But it is true that this is questionable: why do they leave the supercomputer running if she is just a program?
Q23: Season 1 ends with some kind of open ending. Was season 2 already planned at the time?
SD: Well, I don’t remember the details, but I think we were starting to talk about it. However, nothing was decided right away. Things are rarely decided right away. This kind of things is planned according to the success of the series. It is rare that four seasons are planned right away. But it is possible that, when we were starting to write the last episodes of season 1, the sequel was already being considered. But nothing was certain. At least I frankly don’t think so. On the other hand, though they don’t succeed in fighting Xana, they do succeed in bringing Aelita back on earth. So this is some kind of an ending. (Excerpt from Code : earth)