Review n°64 : Mise en ligne en cours
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Le blog de Tchoucky
Le Vaginarium du docteur Pralinus
L'amicale du Geek
Pop Corn Club
Et voici la deuxième partie de l'interview de notre directrice d'écriture préférée. Profitez-en bien !
Et si vous êtes sages, il y a même une surprise vers la fin !
ATTENTION : Cette vidéo traite des quatre saisons de la série et contient donc des spoilers !
English version :
Q24: Several new characters are introduced in season 2, notably Hiroki, Yumi’s younger brother. Why did you create this character?
SD: This was a request from the producers. We were entitled to create supporting characters, and we thought it would be funny to create a younger character. Maybe the idea was also to attract a younger audience… I don’t remember well. Anyways, I was enthusiastic about this because it introduced conflict with Yumi, and I found the character himself funny. And there was also his friend, who had a crush on Yumi, which was also funny. And it also allowed to show Yumi’s family, which was also interesting. Adding new characters in new seasons is always fun, because it introduces new stakes.
Q25: Yumi’s family is seen in season 1 a couple of times, and Hiroki clearly isn’t there…
SD: This is because we hadn’t created him by season 1. However I don’t see this as an inconsistency: he might have been in another boarding school. We never really explained it away, actually. But I think Yumi’s family wasn’t seen much in season 1, was it? Anyway, the real reason why he was absent is that we hadn’t created the character at this time.
Q26: Why did you suddenly decide that Ulrich should be scared of heights in season 2?
SD: We wanted to write an episode where he would have personal issues, and I personally liked this vertigo idea, which was used again later. We didn’t remember anything contradictory with this in season 1. He never climbed up a tree or anything. Bear in mind that he isn’t scared of heights on Lyoko. This idea really has been come up with for an episode, where the writer wanted to do this.
Q27: And now, a mandatory question: what can you tell us about Carthage Project and the unrevealed parts of the backstory?
SD: I am not allowed to answer that. Actually, the original idea is that his (Franz Hopper’s) problems were caused by him creating something that overran him. And besides, he had an enemy, who caused his downfall. I can’t tell you more because it’s classified.
Q28: Were these original ideas used for Code Lyoko Evolution?
SD: No, they weren’t. At all. They didn’t want to use them. (Additional question: why are they still classified, then?) I don’t know. It is still possible that they ask us to write “Code Lyoko: the secret files”. I don’t know, really. (Additional remark: but this would be consistent with season 5) Sure, but it would still be consistent with the animated seasons. In season 5, they made narrative choices that moved away from the continuity we had installed, so I do not consider it as part of the same series.
Q29: Do you personally think that this information will someday stop being classified?
SD: In this case, I would send it to you by text. Because it is quite complex, actually. It’s political. The core of the problem is political. I couldn’t explain it to you like this in a couple of minutes… But Franz Hopper has an enemy. A scientist.
Q29: Is this enemy still alive at the time when the series takes place?
SD: Yes, but he is not seen in the series. He is dormant.
Q30: American and French audiences tend to blame each other for the treatment of romance subplots from season 2 onwards. What is the truth?
SD: Well, I remember that the producers didn’t want the episodes to be always focused on romance subplots. They didn’t want Code Lyoko to become a soap opera. But I don’t remember it to be a specific request from either the French or American producers. The production was just globally concerned that the series would become too much “soap opera”-like. Maybe they were concerned because the head writer was a woman! Anyway, you’re right, I have been warned several times against focusing too much on love. But I agreed with that: there are a lot of subjects to cover in a school environment. And I don’t remember any instruction from French or American producers which would be like “no more romantic subplots”. I really don’t.
Q31: What about William?
SD: This character is one of my favorites! Initially, his name was supposed to be Orlando! This was his original name. We wanted to create a new character, and we wanted him to be an opponent for Ulrich, and soon, with Jérôme, we decided that he should be a somewhat “dark” character. We wanted a somewhat marginal character who would be like a free electron that could come and go… When we had this idea to make him fall to the dark side, it became really great!
Q32: But when this happened, besides his role on Lyoko, he was completely removed from the plot for the rest of the series.
SD: Yes, we were kinda trapped by our thing. I mean, once we had put him on Lyoko, we had to get him out, which was not easy; and it also allowed us to have the spectre. Not to mention that we also wanted to have another 3D character, and once he was on Lyoko, this allowed us to have an opposing figure on Lyoko. I think this was also a request from the producers. Maybe Jérôme remembers this better. But yeah, we had the opportunity to create a both 2D and 3D character. And I like this character, because it was good to have an opponent for Ulrich, actually.
Q33: Where did you get the “replika” idea?
SD: In this season (season 4), Xana goes on with his plan to take over the world, and we asked ourselves how this would be possible. What he could do to impose his dominance over humans. And we also wanted the heroes to be able to materialize as spectres on earth. I don’t remember this very well because I wasn’t there all the time during season 4. I was expecting a baby at the time. Bruno Regeste has been very involved in the replikas part. The idea was that we wanted the heroes to fight on earth. These basic ideas resulted in the replikas: Xana was beginning to spread supercomputers and “other Lyokos” everywhere… The reasoning behind these ideas is always the same: as writers, we have to think of how things are done, what are the procedures, how Xana can spread his quantum bricks. We have to think somewhat scientifically, so to speak. And it was a lot of fun to have the characters on earth in their combat clothing in 2D!
Q34: We had the impression that season 4 had a “back to season 1” feel. Notably, the characters, which seemed quite embittered in seasons 2 and 3, reverted back to their more idealistic personalities. What do you think?
SD: That is possible. For one thing, maybe I tend to make characters more neurotic than Bruno Regeste. Maybe it is also because, in season 4, the characters are more in a fighting position, whereas in season 2 they were more, like, investigating on Franz Hopper. Notably Jérémie, who was becoming a little bit crazy. In season 3, he is often over the top; he goes really far in his personal issues; and, since he is the keystone of the group, this might be the reason. Anyway, this is incidental. We didn’t do this purposefully. I think the heroes’ team is more united to fight on replikas in season 4, while in season 2 and 3 they are studying, discovering everything… They are restless! I don’t know… Again, I wasn’t the one in charge, and maybe characters are less neurotic when I’m not in charge!
Q35: Soundtrack-wise, season 4 reuses themes that weren’t used much after season 1…
SD: This is also possible. I don’t remember this to be deliberate. Maybe instructions were given while I was absent to make more classic storylines, I don’t know. I came back for the end of season 4, actually. I was the one in charge for the replika episodes.
Q36: Many fans felt that the ending was too quick. Why did you choose the “multi-agent system” solution instead of a final battle?
SD: I didn’t want a final battle. I thought it was nice to have a “technological” ending, and besides, we didn’t want to do yet another 3D fight scene. Not to mention that Jérémie is central in the series. We wanted him and his abilities to be decisive in the end. Anyway, this was perfectly deliberate: we didn’t have any instruction against a final battle or budgetary constraints. In our opinion, the two enemies that fight each other are really Jérémie (who is in some way the equivalent of Franz Hopper, as they have the same abilities) and Xana. This was the conflict we had to solve. And… Really, I think this episode was good! Basically, this was the main idea: Jérémie’s role as “the brain” had to be critical.
Q37: Did you intend season 4 to be the very last?
SD: Yes. This was why we wrote the last episode. This was a conclusion episode. (Additional remark: in the end, the characters are waving to the audience) Yes, this was deliberately done like this.
Q38: Was it your decision? Or the producers’?
SD: I think we had been told that there would be no other seasons. With Jérôme, we actually suggested the idea of a live action series, but this wasn’t accepted right away. And the channel did not want to renew the contract. No sequel was planned. So we decided to end the series, and this was accepted. We were actually very happy to have the opportunity to end a series.
Q39: Is this rare?
SD: Yes. It’s very rare. For one thing, we are rarely writing series with serialized storylines, and most of the times, since we hope that there will be another season, we usually rely on cliffhangers, and sometimes there is no other season, and we don’t get to end the series. Here, with Xana, the advantage is that he can always be switched back on. This is what happens. The supercomputer can always be switched back on. This leaves a possibility. But for us, it was over. They had stopped being super-heroes.
Q40: This is the topic of the last episode…
SD: Yes. This episode has been questioned, actually. We had to fight for this episode, because it was a contemplative episode where almost nothing happened. It was also quite nostalgic and rather self-centered, with a somewhat deep subject. People had a mixed opinion about this.
Q41: About this episode: the discrepancies between the topic of the episode and the actual content of dialogue and flashbacks gives the impression that the details have been written by someone who did not understand the original intention. Does this have something to do with this mixed opinion you just mentioned?
SD: Well, this was also an episode with recycled animation. We had to make an episode with recycled animation, and we decided to do it in the last episode. All these ingredients put together resulted in this. So, maybe there is too much recycled animation in the episode and maybe this makes the treatment of this episode too unsubtle. But not necessarily: this is an episode where they remember, really. We decided to do this thoroughly: they remember and they realize that it’s over. But yeah, maybe this episode is a little bit marginal.
Q42: Season 1 appears somewhat artistic and very experimental. Is this linked to the conditions of its writing?
SD: Yes, this was because everything was taking shape gradually as the episodes were written. The episodes themselves were building the series gradually. For Teddygozilla, Frédéric Lenoir established the rules for Xana’s attacks. We had to think of the fact that he was taking control of the teddy bear, why the teddy bear grew… Then, we gradually refined this concept, we asked ourselves what could be the implications of electrical attacks. For instance, it would allow to take control of a hairdryer… But how can you attack someone with a hairdryer? All of this was maturing, so we would always ask ourselves questions, such as: can we go as far as taking control of a samurai armor? All these thoughts were destined to put frontiers in the series. Maybe this is the source of this “experimental” aspect.
BONUS: Interview with Jérôme Mouscadet, director of Code Lyoko
By Pykar et al., on June 26th, 2013
The director did not want to be seen onscreen but kindly answered our questions!
Q43: The series was met with a huge success. Why has there been so few merchandising?
JM: Well, they didn’t take the measure of things; and then everything took place slowly. The company we were working for, Antefilms, just bought another animation company, France Animation and became Moonscoop, and thus, during the production of seasons 2 and 3, the two companies were merging and a lot was to be done, and like I said, they didn’t take the measure, I think. This really occurred at the production level; this was the producer’s business. But we stood for it. I wanted to do a lot of things related to this.
SD: We actually took part in the videogame on DS. For the DS game, we were a little bit involved. Especially you (Jérôme Mouscadet).
JM: Yes, we were a little bit involved. But not enough. The idea is that we could have been more involved in the artistic direction, because I think we were very familiar with the series’ universe, but for political and organizational reasons, we were limited to the series, which was unfortunate. Thus, regarding merchandising, they were too late. But really, I think they didn’t take the measure of the series’ success or the additional profit that could derive from it.
Q44: If you didn’t have any constraint whatsoever, what would you have done differently in Code Lyoko?
JM: Not much. Firstly, we never work without constraints. Constraints are a good thing; at least we consider them to be a good thing. Now, there are certain storyboards that I would have reworked. Some shots, some editing sequences which I would have liked to be stronger, certain animations… Actually, a lot of small details that can be more refined if you have the time. But regarding the overall execution and what we have done with our creation, I think we did well. We worked a lot, but it turned out quite well. I wouldn’t have done many things differently. I would mostly have worked more, within the episodes, on the shots, on the effects, on the animation and so on… I think what is complicated with Code Lyoko is that there are a 2D part and a 3D part. We controlled the 3D part quite well because it was done in Angoulême, in France, whereas for the 2D part, the layout and the animation were done in Asia. Like I often say, it’s a little bit like steering an ocean liner with binoculars. It’s hard to have a constant quality in animation, framing and so on… So from season 3 onwards, or the end of season 2 I think, we put a team dedicated to Code Lyoko in the Asian studio, which is a Chinese studio in Shanghai. So, within the studio, there was a “Code Lyoko” team with two people from Paris who were managing the teams on the spot. Notably, my First assistant, Paul, went there, and there was a supervisor, Michel Molnar, and consequently, what we got back in France was of better quality, and, most importantly, of a more constant quality, because according to the animation team, there can be weaknesses or very good teams… And for series, it’s difficult to have overall consistency. We were not an isolated case; if you look at two Goldorak episodes, Duke Fleed doesn’t look the same! This is linked to the cartoonist you are dealing with. And obviously, with a higher amount of money… The USA are good at this, actually. They have bigger budgets, so for stuff like The Simpsons, the quality of the animation and the respect of the character models, which is a big issue in 2D animation, are very good, but less so In France. In Japan, it is also very good because the animators, layout men and cartoonists work on the spot, so series like Cowboy Bebop have a true global quality of animation. Then again, Cowboy Bebop is a very good reference. So yeah. But for the overall execution of the episodes and seasons as well as the general directions we took, I think we were quite satisfied.
Q45: Regarding budget: the visual innovation in season 4 is quite unusual for a series of this category…
JM: Have you noticed that season 3 is completely devoid of new creation? There is no new creation whatsoever in the fifteen episodes. This was the deal. This is what we negotiated with the producers, in collaboration with them: we were to do a 15-episodes season with no new creation at all, which inspired Sophie this great concept of “destroying Lyoko” with disappearing sectors, which was quite awesome, and then we could save a lot more new locations for season 4, and many more things to do. So we used season 3’s development for season 4. But for instance, in season 4, we should have had a lot more replikas, for which we had other sceneries in reserve. There was a mountain replika, at the vicinity of a dam, which would have looked quite good. But when you are doing a scenery model like this, it is a lot of work, because you have to also draw the interiors…
SD: Not to mention that there were a lot of rooms where battles would take place with spheres, spiders…
JM: So for a realistic depiction, you need both shot and reverse shot, so it’s already two sceneries, and so on… So things can pile up quite a bit… I have had less constraints, this is something that I would have enriched: the replikas, and the bases where the lyoko warriors translate.
Q46: So these novelties were your ideas, not the producers’
JM: It was in mutual accordance. We asked ourselves what story we would tell in seasons 3 and 4, so Sophie worked a lot on the story bible, on the new stakes for Xana, for the lyoko warriors, with William, Franz Hopper and everything, and from there, the replika concept emerged, and then, working together, we figured that we needed this or that base, we went to the producers wo told us how many sceneries we were allowed… All of this was done in parallel, there is a global negotiation before the series is developed where we decide how many sceneries will have to be created. This is adjusted according to what we need and what the budget allows. It is a day-to-day work to realize that there is one too many character, and so on… Actually it’s easier to create characters and props in 2D than in 3D, because in 3D you need the sketch, the “turn”, the facial expressions, the “posing”, the modeling, the “read”, the textures… You have a lot of additional steps in 3D, which is why new creation is very complicated in 3D. You need to think a lot beforehand. Fortunately – I don’t know if you’re aware of that – we benefited from the talent of Eric Guillon, who was the director for 3D sceneries and who designed the world of Lyoko based on the original concepts which were given to him. He is the artistic director for Illumination Entertainment movies (Despicable me). He practically invented 3D-layout in France, at the time of Phantom (translator’s note: Phantom 2040), in the 1990s, when Pixar hadn’t yet released a full-length movie. The first series that was entirely 3D was French. It was Insektors. He was working for this society, he was doing 3D layout, and he invented the tools. When I met him for Code Lyoko, and we wanted to create the world, after a lot of discussion, we came to an agreement: to be able to create layouts rapidly, we would make something LEGO-like, with plates, that are the sectors: desert, mountain, and so on; and then have a number of specific building blocks such as rocks, trees for the forest sector for instance, that we could arrange rather rapidly, to be able to produce in France; because it’s so expensive to do shot-based layout, that is create an image for each shot, that it immediately becomes like a full-length movie and you explode in mid-flight because we are cannot afford this in France.
Q47: How did you end up working on Code Lyoko?
JM: Actually, when I wanted to come back to animation, I found a series on which I began working. Four months later, I had dinner with a friend who worked for Antefilms. I told her that I was a director once again and that I was very happy about this. They were looking for a director for what was then called Garage Kids. I met the team, who wanted a new generation of directors, at the time this was the generation of the 1990s – I owe them a lot, by the way. I was selected in June 2002. We worked on the writing during summer. This wasn’t going very well with the person in charge, because she had taken a lot of vacation, so we weren’t progressing fast enough, and Sophie arrived in September – or late August. From then, things progressed very quickly. I didn’t know much at the time, I had done a lot of animation in the small company I was working in, but mostly for short films, stuff like this… Fortunately, I had friends from Dupuis, who were working in animation and explained to me how animation for series is managed, the work pace it required, the jobs it involved, and so on. Well it was similar to what I had been doing previously, but much, much bigger; so I surrounded myself with competent people, and that’s it. So, basically, I came to Antefilms thanks to a friend, and this is how I ended up working on Code Lyoko.
Q48: What is your favorite character?
JM: I like Aelita. Actually, I think someone asked me this question before… Anyway, I like Aelita because everything revolves around her. She is pivotal in the series. It is by asking ourselves questions about her background that we unraveled the bible, so it was quite interesting to determine where she came from. She was really our “center of significance”. It is also a somewhat ambiguous character, who has emotions… She is less stereotypical a character than Odd, Ulrich or Yumi can be. It is the character that undergoes the most character development throughout the series. And I found this quite interesting.
Q49: Are the action sequences on Lyoko done at the same time as the 2D sequences for a single episode? Or independently?
JM: It is always done episode by episode. However, from season 2 onwards, I had people who were storyboarding the 3D parts and other people who were storyboarding the 2D parts in parallel. But this was always done at the episode level, based on the script and based on the work we were doing with Sophie. It think building the series as if the 3D part had been all recycled animation would have been a wrong way to look at it.
SD: Not to mention that, like we were discussing earlier, the topic of the episode often had consequences on both the 2D and the 3D. So we tried to make things homogeneous. It would have been weird to do a lot of 3D scenes and to forcefully put in the episodes, which would result in a weak topical consistency. It was not an option; it would have looked like “copy-pasted” material.
JM: The job of a director is to make sense out of things at every level. Anyway, this is how I think of it. You have to make sense, to know why you are doing this or that. It can be an editorial sense or a literary sense… The character has to perform a specific action in order to be in-character or because he is in a situation that requires this action. It can also be visual sense, or color relevance: if I put two complementary colors, it could hurt the viewer’s retina… The aim is to always make sense out of things. On this basis, doing 3D completely independently of 2D would have been wrong. I think the plots work because we thought of them as cohesive stories. I know series, like Galactik Football, not to name it, where the 3D and 2D scenes are done by separate directors. As the writing of Galactik Football is very good, this turns out well, but I think it would have generated inconsistencies or moments that would have been complicated to manage…
SD: It was not an option: there are a lot of episodes where, for instance, Odd decides to stop mocking everyone… Or rather, to stop bragging, and it has consequences in 2D as well as in 3D. In every episode, normally, there is consistency: the “sitcom” part continues in the 3D part.
JM: And for the overall credibility, we had to be realistic and plausible regarding movements. Making sense also requires this. The fact that the characters are present in 3D has consequences on the 2D part, on the editing, on the way we are splicing. I was driven by the idea, as well as the rest of the team, that the locations and distances had to be taken into account. When the characters were going to the lab, it was taking them a while, so for the 3D part… For all these reasons, we were considering the episodes as cohesive entities.
Q50: As the director, did you have an impact on the writing of the scripts?
SD: For the writing of season 2, we were working in the same office, we were side by side, so…
JM: This is part of our working method: with Sophie, we think of ourselves more like a showrunner. Not to mention that, for animated series, when you are writing “he takes the fork”, you have to draw the fork. The writing has so much impact on the execution and the teams who are working downstream, that direction and writing have to be done in collaboration.
SD: This is why we started working together. From the beginning, we were asking ourselves the same questions. When I arrived, I was asking myself “who is Franz Hopper? What is this universe?” Jérôme was asking himself the same questions, and we tried to come up with answers together. Some ideas were proposed by the writers, like I was telling you, for instance Françoise Charpiat… But for instance, for the characters, we worked together to unravel the threads, and decided how things should be working… We worked in tandem for everything. For instance, Jérôme would tell me that, for 3D, this or that passage was too imprecise… Everything was done in collaboration.
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)