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July 14th 2004
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHRISTOPHE
Hercules, Fantasia, Tarzan, Dinosaur…Behind these animated characters, Issoirian Christophe Vacher’s signature and Imagination.
By Sandrine Thomas.
Since he was a kid, Christophe Vacher had always been fascinated by animated cartoons playing on TV at his home in Issoire, France, where he grew up. At 18, while cable was starting and his friends were having a blast on Play Stations, between two philosophy books that they had to read for their high school diploma, he preferred to analyze the last Japanese Anime and American productions played on the Disney channel. He was far from knowing that a few years later, he would be operating in the Californian Walt Disney studios to give magic to the young TV watchers.
From “Dinosaur” to “Fantasia 2000”, going through “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” and “Tarzan”, Christophe Vacher will be respectively character designer, Layout designer, Background painter, Digital artist…
From Issoire to Burbank.
“Internet didn’t exist at that time, I didn’t really know how to start an artistic career in Animation, Comic Books or Illustration. My head was full of dreams without knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but one thing was certain: I wanted to work in one of these fields”.
After his high school degree, Christophe Vacher goes, like many of his friends, to Clermont-Ferrand (France), and gets accepted into the Fine Arts school – the closest one to his hometown. He will stay there for one year, before failing by a few points his test at the Comic Book and Illustration school of Angouleme (France). “At that time, Modern Art was at its peak and Classical Art was less considered”. A little lost, he enters the University of History of Art in Clermont-Ferrand. Two years that, little did he know, would be very useful in his near future. “I learned a lot, especially in the fields of Antique and Medieval Architecture, Mythology and History.” He doesn’t really learn an Artistic technique, but these different experiences open his mind to a new dimension in his drawings.
An impossible dream that came true.
Then, in 1989, Christophe goes to Paris, shows his portfolio and is hired by IDDH company –which had distributed the first Anime series in France, “Goldorak”, and was co-producing the animated series “The Ninja Turtles” at that time.
“It was my first job in Animation. It was like an impossible dream that was coming true”, he remembers with the enthusiasm of a kid. “If one day someone had told I would work on “The Ninja Turtles”, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Christophe Vacher will even afford to say “no” to a job position at…the Disney studios. “I was working in a small studio where I had a lot of freedom and could do whatever I wanted. So, why getting myself into a big machine where I would only be a number among others?”
Destiny had decided otherwise and the graphic skills of the young French man push Disney to come back six months later, but this time with an offer impossible to decline. Little did he know when entering Disney that the small studio he was quitting wouldn’t resist the competitors a few months later?
And with the beginning of this incredible professional adventure that resembles a fairy tale, always the same question keeps coming back to his mind: what, at some point, made the difference? “There are thousands of talented artists. The difference? Maybe just being in the right place at the right time” he wonders. “That chance, you take it or you don’t. But if you don’t, it will never happen again.”
And he proudly took it, but at the price of many sacrifices: “At 29, I had to leave everything behind”, he admits. “The last night I spent in my empty apartment in Paris, I couldn’t stop questioning myself. I spent the night calling my relatives to tell them Good Bye twenty times.”
“When you go to other side of the mirror, part of the dream and magic vanishes.”
Once landed in California in the Burbank studios of the creator of Mickey, Christophe Vacher enters a new dimension and explores the multiple options offered by big budget feature films. And with them, stress and pressure.
“When you go on the other side, part of the dream and magic vanishes. At that point, everyone tries to position themselves in the political game, and if you stay there, you quickly lose the real passion you had for Animation.”
Nine years after he entered the company, Christophe Vacher quits Disney to work as a freelance artist. And sometimes goes back to Animation. Like this year when he accepted to join Steven Spielberg’s company “Dreamworks” to work on “Shark Tale”, a 3D Animation feature film in the vein of their previous success “Shrek”.
For the French young artist, whom many envy the background, only one watchword: Persistence. “Talented people, you find them by the thousands, but many are forgotten on the way. Talent is important, but not only. You have to work constantly.”