Angoulême celebrates 40 years of Cités d’or

Video tapes and storyboards

China, Japan, India, Zimbabwe, Congo. In the rooms of the Paradis studios, at the Chais Magelis, fitted out for the occasion, Jean-Luc François reconstructed the entire creative process. Dozens of panels and drawing boards to discover. “We accumulate a lot of documentation. And afterwards, we are delirious”, calmly tells the director of the last three seasons, in front of the large panels revealing the seven cities of gold. Tseïla in South America, Bâdalom in Tibet, everything is inspired by real places. Like Aîgis, the shield city, which looks just like the Château de Chambord. “The plot takes place at the time of François Iis, while the castle is still under construction; that’s how he must have seen it. Then we take liberties. According to the latest news, no cave is hidden under the castle…” His crooked smile would almost make you want to go check it out.

Instead, we turn to a showcase where a dozen video cassettes recall the origins of cities of gold. That the fans of the first hour are reassured, we have not forgotten them. Moreover, the credits music of the series has hardly been modified. “We just changed the musical styles to stick to the story”, explains Jean-Luc François as he enters the projection room. Songs and rhythms of African or Asian inspiration thus give clues to the children’s travels. Open your eyes: one of the characters in the credits of season 3 looks like the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki…

It’s an iconic show, with some fans who were kids, and some who were in their 40s. It was hard to figure out how to please everyone…

Throughout the rooms, the visitor can also follow the creation of the characters, the storyboards, but also photographs. To best capture the atmosphere of these cities and landscapes at the end of the world, the team has indeed traveled more than once. “Do you see Great Zimbabwe? It was the center of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, from the XIIIe in the 15the century. We recreated it identically. Anyway, there are images that you can only have by being there. »

Recall the style of the 80s

The director is careful, precise and enthusiastic. He knows he was expected at the turn, when he took over the saga. “It’s an iconic show, with some fans who were kids, and some who were in their 40s. It was complicated to find how to please everyone, we were really under pressure! And then a lot of things have changed: we don’t tell a story the same way, we have to render calibrated episodes… Before, if they were one minute too long in an episode, they were one minute less in the episode following. »

The Great Condor watches over the secrets of the series. -Photo credit: Photo Renaud Joubert

Today, all episodes must last 23 minutes, compared to 28 minutes in the 80s. And if it was not possible to recreate the animation identically, the team wanted to get closer as much as possible. We definitely do not touch such a saga without taking a few precautions. “We created the characters in 3D, with a 2D rendering, to be as close as possible graphically to the original rendering. It required a lot of testing. It was Esteban who served as our yardstick. We also managed to reproduce the somewhat jerky side of the first animation. »

A meticulous work, at the height of his commitment. “Having this chance to travel all over the world for such a project is a great feeling. I remember that we had drawn the Chinese wall for an episode and then, one day, I had really found myself on the Chinese wall. To be there and to see that we hadn’t been mistaken, that our work corresponded to reality… It was an extraordinary moment. »

“The Secrets of the Mysterious Cities of Gold”, at the Chais Magelis, in Angoulême. Until December 31. Open weekends and school holidays, Tuesday to Sunday. Free admission. This Saturday, October 22 at 4 p.m., at the Enjmin, screening of two episodes followed by a conference by Jean-Luc François on the making of the series. Info on the Magelis website: or