The art of storytelling hasn't ever changed: Oggy creator Marc du Pontavice

MUMBAI: Since its launch, Oggy and the Cockroaches has generated fan after fan in various parts of the world. Furthermore, the slapstick French animated series has found a sweet spot in Indian kids.

Oggy was initially on Nickelodeon India for the first four seasons and the seasons starting from the fifth one till the announced seventh one was taken up by Cartoon Network in 2012. Earlier this year, Xilam Animation, the name that gave rise to this new iconic character, tied up with Nazara Technologies to launch a host of mobile games for the tech-savvy younger audiences. Over 600 million homes in 160 countries are hooked to the show, which has had its fair share of modifications to suit the local needs such as adding voiceover for India.

The creator of Oggy and the Cockroaches, Xilam Animation founder and CEO Marc du Pontavice spoke in an email interaction spoke about the sophistication that animation has achieved today. The 20-year-old cartoon series has definitely had visible changes over the years owing to technology. However, he maintains that nothing changed the storytelling that they believed in right from the start.

Edited excerpts:

Now that Oggy is 20 years old, how do you connect with new audiences watching the show for the very first time?

Well, if we are talking about kids, we actually have a new audience every five years. It’s almost like a fresh start for all those generations. We try to tweak the motivation of the characters, the story, Oggy’s adventure and so on – just to be a bit different. Although the characters themselves haven’t changed that much. Oggy is always a very dedicated, caring character with plenty of sensibility.

What has changed is that the first season was primarily a battle between a cat and the roaches within the house. Then in the second season, we started having him go to vacation, going to the country, going to the beach – episodes that were happening outside the house. So it was really testing the dynamic between the characters outside of the house. We didn’t always want to say in the house because you always have to bring something different, season after season.

In season three, Oggy started to have a job – after all, he has a mortgage to pay – and the humour came from the roaches who were messing up his business.

Then in season four, we added the love affair with Olivia, a new neighbour and a new dynamic for Oggy. This was really fun because the roaches would put Oggy in embarrassing situations with Olivia and she was different, dynamic and fun. She is a very daring character in the sense that she wants to protect the life of animals, and for her the roaches are animals who should be protected.

Season five was a big leap for us because it was taking all of those characters and bringing them into various stages of history. As part of this, we even tell a story of India’s past! It is really fun because it’s even more adventurous and more action driven.

What modifications did you have to make over time and what were the challenges?

Although technology has helped the process, the art of the storytelling hasn’t ever changed. It is the same type of storytelling we have been creating for many years.

The animation is certainly more sophisticated. Nowadays we have many new tools at our disposition, and the backgrounds are definitely more sophisticated. Season five was produced in HD, in term of the resolution of the image and it is pretty spectacular. That just wasn’t possible 20 years ago.

When you watch an Oggy episode, you can watch it on your phone or on a big screen. Both work, which is really exciting and that tells you how detailed and more sophisticated we are. In terms of audio, we have developed a complete and very interesting use of sound effects, music and character voices – especially in season five. This allows the character to demonstrate their personality and express themselves in non-dialogue ways.

In terms of my favourite episode, it’s always the last one I’ve worked on.

There was a bit of Bollywood and cricket too, can you elaborate on that?

If we had written the episode from Paris, we would have probably had done something on historical myths or legends and things like that. It felt much more accurate and funny to use something that was more important to Indian society today. So, we incorporated both Bollywood and cricket, and above all created an authentic and funny storyline.

In India, the show has dialogues. What led to the change?

Watching it – and hearing it – is a unique experience, I must say. At the beginning of Oggy, there was one country that was doing this – Germany. For some reason, their tradition with slapstick was always to add some sort of a voiceover.

But in India, it seems to be very different and I would say people who created this [at Cartoon Network] did it very well. I am not Indian, and I don’t know Hindi [or Tamil or Telugu] so it’s difficult for me to comment on this with any authority. But people have translated it for me so that I knew what was going on. I think it adds another layer of energy, another layer of comedy.

Oggy, you might say, is unique in India because of this reason. It’s interesting that on our YouTube account, the show doesn’t work in India as well as in other parts of the world because we haven’t used those voices.

Do you plan to create more India-centric episodes?

Fans and viewers in India loved the return of ‘Asli Oggy’ on Cartoon Network last year, and the audience reception was wonderful. We enjoyed making the three episodes that showed his wonderful adventures in India. And if we see the opportunity in the future, we would be happy to take Oggy and The Cockroaches, back to India for more fun!

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