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Q&A with Simon Landrein, ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ season 5 guest artist

// Featured, Interviews


Having graduated from Supinfocom with the short film dock5 in 2007, ten years later 2D/3D artist Simon Landrein has established a strong career in the world of illustration and animation. On top of an impressive illustration portfolio of work for NikeGQ France, Wired and The New York Times among many others, his moving image work spans commissions for Nexus, The Mill and Passion Pictures as well as music videos, several short personal projects and a contribution the recently released Rick and Morty Exquisite Corpse promo. Earlier this year Simon also joined the ranks of guest artists to contribute to the expansive, mixed media universe of the Cartoon Network series The Amazing World of Gumball. Drawing upon his distinct approach to design and illustration as well as his enthusiasm for skateboarding, Simon’s segment in the episode The Ollie was produced at Passion Pictures in Paris with animation by Cyrille Chauvin, Hugues Opter and Jules Boulain-Adenis. Skwigly spoke with Simon following his involvement in the Cartoon Network panel discussion The Amazing World of Gumball and Friends that took place at this year’s edition of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to your recent involvement in The Amazing World of Gumball?

I started as a 3D artist, studying 3D animation in France at Supinfocom. Gradually I moved towards illustration, mostly 2D art because I wasn’t that in love with the technical aspect of 3D. So I did more and more illustration and transferred it into 2D animation. From that point I got involved with Gumball, when Ben (Bocquelet) said that he’d be interested to work with me as he was writing a skateboard episode and knew I was a big skateboard nerd. So of course I was like “YES! That’s for me.” So that’s how it started.

Did you know much about the show before then?

A lot of my friends actually work on the show so yeah, while I haven’t watched all the episodes I did know the show.

So you mentioned in the panel discussion that a lot of the previous work that you’d done before has kind of an adult sensibility. Were there any challenges as far as adapting your style to what is essentially a family show?

Well, to be honest I was pretty surprised. I was originally careful as I knew it would be PG so I could’t have fun with the things I have fun with usually, if you know what I mean. I had to make sure that things are a bit more readable – I usually use very thick lines, so I had to make something thinner that was easier to work with when it came to perspectives and those kinds of things.

The Amazing World of Gumball: The Ollie (Courtesy of Turner)

The sequence is quite dynamic and action-packed, as Gumball likes to reference other films was it designed to evoke anything pre-existing?

The thing is, during the writing we wanted to have a very big and dynamic action sequence, so that was our starting point. The first animatic was kind of crazy with explosions everywhere, then I thought more about what exactly makes a skateboard sequence.So I tried to move the action sequence a little bit more toward that, so it wasn’t too crazy.

As far as your own work in general, had there been any particular stylistic influences of people, like other illustrators or animators that you really felt spoke to you as you were developing your style?

There are plenty actually, but it changes all the time. With illustrators I’d had loads of Belgian and French comics that were a massive influence on me. Even though I haven’t been a big fan since I was younger, now I can say it actually does have an influence on me – clean lines, bold solid colours, all those kinds of things, so that’s one big influence. Now I’m more influenced by American illustrators, those kinds of guys who are related to the skateboard world as well.

Having done some shorter form animations in the lead-up to this, would you be enthusiastic about doing more animation of your own after this?

Oh yeah, I’m actually represented by Passion Pictures and I usually direct commercials with animation, so definitely I want to make more. At the moment I’m using this illustration style and I’m trying to translate more and more of those into animation as well. Because I do all of those myself, usually they are very basic, so not crazy animation. But yeah, I want to push this style a bit more, so I will make more animation.

Would they be like stories or more graphical, abstract pieces?

I like a bit of storytelling but when it’s a very short format it’s obviously much harder to tell a good story in a very short time. When I was part of the writing session for Gumball that’s where a lot of time is spent, actually. The shorter it is, the harder it is to write a good story, that’s what I feel.

Would you be happy to work on Gumball again?

Yeah, it’s a great show. As I was saying, there’s a lot of freedom which is pretty rare for a TV show.

The Amazing World of Gumball: The Ollie (Courtesy of Turner)

You did mention a couple of things had to be changed – I quite liked the idea of changing the bullet to a fist, it gave the scene a more surreal quality. So in a way even when there’s that kind of feedback it’s nice that it can be adapted in a way that’s quite free and easy.

Yeah, all the changes we had to do were quite quick and there wasn’t much discussion about it, we could adapt it and that was all good. We could keep that within a world that also appeals to an adult audience as well.

What are you up to now – or next?

I’m currently working on a series of illustrations for a French newspaper and have been wondering if I can translate them into animation, again for an adult audience. And also I’m working on a few commercials with the same style I’ve been using for a few years now. So the next few months will be quite busy!

The Amazing World of Gumball season 5 airs weekdays at 5:30pm on Cartoon Network in the UK.
See more of Simon Landrein’s work at simonlandrein.com

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