On paper, Max & Co looks like a big risk. Budgeted at $25m (EUR19m), the animated first-time feature from director brothers Fred and Sam Guillaume started out as a short. But as it evolved, and with input from producer Robert Boner, it became clear it would be better served as a full-length production.
Financing for the film, which uses puppets and new motion-capture techniques, came together using regional funds and tax breaks via a co-production between Switzerland, UK, France and Belgium. Although Boner says several French sales companies turned down the project, Wild Bunch stepped in with a sizeable minimum guarantee. "It is super original," says the company's Vincent Maraval.
The story follows Max on a quest to find his father. He ends up at a fly-swatter factory where business is on the decline and a scandal erupts when fake flies are constructed to boost sales.
A key to putting the film together was chief animator Guionne Leroy (Chicken Run, Toy Story) who cast an international crew. Furthermore, Boner brought in Bruno Coulais for the score and veteran cinematographer Renato Berta to light the film.
The puppets were created by the UK's Mackinnon & Saunders (Corpse Bride, Mars Attacks!). The wildly intricate mechanics are covered with sculpted materials and textiles, and can cost as much as $60,000 per puppet.
Shooting outside Geneva on a 4,500 square metre soundstage that holds 27 sets, 130 people zoom around on scooters as shots are set up in different rooms to produce 3.2 minutes of footage per day. Over an eight-week period, the twin directors shuttled between the sets, before digital and effects posting was completed in Belgium and mixing finished in France.