The brilliant modern animated movie The Triplets of Belleville (also known as Belleville Rendez-Vous) is both moving as a story and has beautifully stylistic animation. The images are clearly meant to look like a standard hand-drawn animation but some scenes seem to contain vivid images that look impossible to achieve easily with manually hand drawn cells.

So how was the vivid imagery achieved? What animation techniques were used?

2 Answers 2


It's been difficult to find an exact description of what techniques were used, but there are several interviews with the director that point to a combination of hand-drawn and computer-animated technique, possibly creating a framework for a scene in 3D and then adding hand-drawn details.

From an interview with the director from Animation World, "That said, what we've done in 2D in my film was sometimes treated in 3D underneath."

More detail is provided by TIME, which says that "for Triplets, [the director] did use computer animation for the film’s cars, boats and trains".

  • I imagine the technique would probably be rather similar to the mix of 2D and 3D animation used for the Disney short Paperman, which is described here. youtube.com/watch?v=TZJLtujW6FY
    – vastra360
    Mar 9, 2014 at 22:04

There are a range of different techniques used.

Firstly, it uses Traditional Animation and in particular, Cels. Cels can be described as follows:

The cel is an important innovation to traditional animation, as it allows some parts of each frame to be repeated from frame to frame, thus saving labor. A simple example would be a scene with two characters on screen, one of which is talking and the other standing silently. Since the latter character is not moving, it can be displayed in this scene using only one drawing, on one cel, while multiple drawings on multiple cels are used to animate the speaking character.

There is a great pictorial example on the link above. It also uses CGI for some sections of the film.

This was what the director, Sylvain Chomet had to say about the animation technique (in an interview with the BBC):

I wanted to do things in animation that hadn’t been done before. It’s a very rigid medium in what people think it should be. It’s always got to be for kids. It should bring good feelings, have bad guys and good guys, and end with a moral. But this means there are lots of subjects and things you can’t show, like someone smoking a cigarette for example. With “Belleville”, the aim was to go against that, and do something that wasn’t aimed at kids. It’s great that kids can enjoy the film, but it freed us up to go in directions that the animated movie hasn’t gone in before.

In the same interview, he also commented on why he used CGI:

It was mainly to get rid of all the boring stuff. Objects, for example, always take a very long time to animate because they don’t change as they move. We used CGI for the cars, the bicycles, the boats and the trains, and it meant the animators had more time for enjoyable elements like the character acting.

  • "But this means there are lots of subjects and things you can’t show, like someone smoking a cigarette for example." Funny, because there's no problem with fishing with hand grenades because the Roadrunner had that covered decades earlier ...
    – davidbak
    Oct 19, 2021 at 1:19

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