Vivement Lundi!—the French studio behind Oscar-nominated short Mémorable—is lining up a stop-motion/2D hybrid series inspired by the iconic sport of lucha libre freestyle wrestling, marking a number of firsts for the company.
After taking audiences to Africa with its preschool series Dimitri, the studio is preparing to highlight the popular Mexican spectacle with Super-Lucha (55 x 12 minutes), an adventure series for six to 10s about four friends who don luchadore wrestling costumes to, well, kick some evil butt.
Vivement has spent the past decade creating stop-motion series for kids that are educational and slower-paced, but wanted to prove that the medium can be more fast-paced and flexible than audiences realize, says producer Mathieu Courtois.
In came the art of lucha libre. Unlike US wrestling, which focuses on powerful strikes and pins, lucha libre is defined by aerial maneuvers, colorful costumes and masks that must never come off. This form of wrestling has been popular in Mexico since the 1930s, and in 2018 the Mexico City government granted the sport “cultural heritage” status, highlighting its long-standing importance to the country’s identity.
Super-Lucha blends stop motion with 2D animation (primarily focusing on eyes and lips in post-production) to make the characters more expressive, Courtois says. The technique isn’t one the studio has tried before, but it allows the team to get around a few limitations of its preferred medium.
“We specialize in stop motion—and don’t want to change that—but it is hard to produce action with it,” says Courtois. “Adding in the 2D animation, while telling a story about fighters, helps us create a more bankable product because all the movement makes it more exciting. Visually, it also matches with the colorful graphic style [traditionally used to] portray the luchadores in comics and anime, which inspired our show’s look.”
The action sequences also give the producer an opportunity to expand beyond the preschool demo, which has been its primary focus for the past 10 years, says Courtois.
Co-created and directed by Goulwen Merret, Super-Lucha marks the Mexican-born animator’s first show. This is also the first time Vivement Lundi! has tackled a project based on Mexican culture, and it is leaning on Merret’s knowledge of luchadores and his home country to keep the story authentic, Courtois adds.
With a series budget of around US$8.5 million, the producer has completed a bible, and a script is in the works.
“Mexico and the culture of luchadores is not something many kids in France, or around the world, will know about, which makes this fresh and exciting,” Courtois says.