Raining Cats and Frogs at Annecy

A highlight of Saturday’s festivities at Annecy was a preview of the upcoming French animated feature La Prophétie des Grenouilles (Raining Cats and Frogs) from director Jacques-Rémy Girerd. Produced by Folimage and distributed by Studio Canal and Bac Distribution, the hand-drawn film uses a graphic, crayon style to tell the Noah’s Ark-like story of a zookeeping family that gets caught up in the next great flood.

The first 23 minutes of the film were screened for the eager audience. Girerd prefaced his introduction with “For those who do not have the advantage of being born in this beautiful country, I will attempt to translate my remarks into English.” The director then proceeded to have fun with his English translations, saying things like “Would you like some tea?” “What is your room number?” and “Where are these weapons of mass destruction?” The last remark in particular sent the largely French audience into a frenzy of applause and laughter.

On a serious note, Girerd spoke about how this first feature from Folimage has been six years in the making. “I had just finished a series of shorts on environmental issues and wanted to work on a longer film using the Noah’s Ark theme to get a message across about nature and environmental protection,” he says. “I first wrote this as short story thinking it would be a special for TV but then realized it would be a feature.”

Five versions of animatics were created. “Each time we encountered a lot of problems,” notes Girerd. The crew also did a lot of research on atmospherics, which are an integral part of the story.

As the film begins, a frog from every water hole is appointed to attend an extraordinary meeting where it is revealed that it will rain for 40 days and 40 nights, resulting in another flood. The amphibian forecasters then take it upon themselves to warn the human race, beginning with youngsters Tom and Lili, who live on a hilltop with Tom’s adoptive parents Ferdinand and Juliette. As the rain starts coming down, the family and all their zoo animals head for the top of the barn and find themselves floating on a new-born sea.

If the rest of the film is anything like the beginning, it has heart and charm to spare. Great drawing, fantastic character design a punchy script and a rich score by Serge Besset left much of the audience, myself included, wanting more.

Raining Cats and Frogs will be released in France in late 2003 amidst some stiff competition, prompting Girerd to proclaim, “On December 3, there’s more than just Disney and The Matrix.”