U.K. producer Passion Pictures joined forces with director Pierre Coffin at Tiger Aspect in London and Paris-based animation and post production house MacGuff Ligne to produce THE POLAR BEARS, a series of seven short films as new installments for the second series of LENNY HENRY IN PIECES airing since March 2003 on BBC1. The Polar Bears features a bear family living together in a concrete enclosure in a zoo. The parents are Gary and Claudia, voiced by Lenny Henry and Alison Steadman, their son Shane voiced by Barry Farrimond and Uncle Ian voiced by Trevor Peacock. Each episode follows a different drama in their everyday lives as exhibits in the zoo. The comedy revolves around the bears concerns about captivity, ambition, sex and the general human (polar bear) condition, providing a great vehicle for Henrys sharp observation of character and human foibles.
Paris-based animator Coffin, who has been represented by Passion Pictures for three years, directed the computer animation. As well as numerous commercial projects for U.K., French and American television, Pierres two short films PENGUINS and POLAR BEAR have enjoyed great success at film festivals all over the world.
Passion Pictures producer Hugo Sands said, "When Tiger Aspect approached us WITH THE POLAR BEARS scripts, we immediately thought of Pierre for the project because of his skill in comedy and character animation. We were also delighted to have the opportunity to work with Mark Chapman and Lucy Robinson at Tiger Aspect and writer Chris Reddy."
Tiger Aspect producer Robinson said she felt comfortable with Passion as a partner because "they shared our enthusiasm for the scripts," she said. "We were also very impressed with Pierres visualization of the polar bear characters."
The computer animation was produced over a 7-month period by MacGuff Ligne in Paris using Maya software for the animation and their own proprietary software MGLR (MacGuff Ligne Rendering) for the rendering and compositing.
"I was astonished by the mobility of the facial expressions," said the series' star Henry. "The way the bears were animated suited the voices perfectly. The (studio) audience immediately identified with them. I think they're great."
Voice recording was done by Graham Stoten@Videosonics. Coffin also edited the series for Passon with Etienne Pecheux. Erika Forzy produced for Passion along with exec producer Andrew Ruhemann. CG animators at McGuff Ligne included Barthelemy Boirot, Christophe Barnouin, Isabelle Auphan, Valerie Ede, Luc Degardin and Giusi Marrone. Etienne Pecheux, Niklaus Bruneau, Franck Clarenc and Mathieu Gros handled rendering while Jacques Bled and Nicolas Trout produced for MacGuff.