Former Gaumont chief Marc du Pontavice’s new Paris-based animation studio Xilam is creating a TV series based on classic European comic book character Lucky Luke for delivery later this year. Subsequently, Xilam will also make an animated feature film, while UGC is set to make a live-action Luke flick.
Luke first appeared as a comic character in 1947, and reached the height of his popularity in the `60s and `70s. He still does well in print today and is known throughout Europe, with particularly strong support in France, Germany, Scandinavia and Benelux, says du Pontavice.
To date, Luke has been subject of a 1967 feature film, a 26 x 30-minute series from Gaumont in 1983 and a further 26 x half-hour series from rights holder Dargaud in 1989. The new 52 x 30-minute version involves Xilam, Dargaud and Lucky Comics, and has a broadcast commitment from France Television. Du Pontavice says a German broadcaster has signed on, and there is a possibility that a Spanish co-pro partner may be brought in.
Luke is a wild west cowboy with a comedic spin whose series is targeted at family audiences. According to du Pontavice, the last TV version ‘did not show a real understanding of how to adapt a comic character to animation. It worked because the character is so strong, but the pacing was wrong for the modern eye.’
Du Pontavice sees ‘the creative process of bringing Luke to animation as our first challenge.’ The second is the scripts, which will require the development of new stories for Luke. ‘We are not going to take all our stories from the original 78 comics.’ The final major challenge is to ‘get Luke into markets that don’t know him,’ says du Pontavice. ‘My experience with getting shows like Space Goofs into the U.S. is part of the reason I am involved. To date, the only comic character to have transferred successfully from European comics to the U.S. is The Smurfs.’
Du Pontavice is keen not to push Luke into the U.S. at this stage. ‘Luke is so strong in Europe that we can’t let partners that might misunderstand the property get involved too early. I don’t think Pokémon would have been so strong if U.S. studios had got their hands on it earlier. Fortunately, we don’t need U.S. finance at this stage on Lucky Luke.’