Guy was completely shocked by what he heard on the news that night, as were many other viewers around the world. In France, several journalists and cartoonists had just been murdered in cold blood during a terrorist attack perpetrated against Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper. The date: January 2015. Focused on the images on the screen, Guy seemed to have forgotten that his daughter Béatrice (aka Bébéatrice) was right there, sitting next to him. At this moment, this tiny 4-year-old found the perfect words to sum up the situation: “You know Dad, when we don’t like a drawing, we shouldn’t kill people. We just have to flip the sheet over and draw on the other side.” Those words were so simple, but they were filled with truth and wisdom. That was enough to ignite Guy’s will to move forward with a far-fetched idea… The comedian, screenwriter and producer Guy A Lepage (aka PapaGuy) tells us about his daughter/inspiration and the series named after her: Bébéatrice.
The characters in the original series – Design: Éric Godin
The Book Preceding the Series
After hearing these sentences worthy of philosophy’s major leagues, Guy A Lepage decided to return Éric Godin’s call. This cartoonist and author had contacted Guy a few weeks earlier to offer him a project, inspired by Bébéatrice’s innocent words, which Guy had shared on his Twitter feed. Éric had sent Guy a few images illustrating the girl’s words: “At the time, I didn’t know Éric Godin but he naturally drew us with the right energy. He drew my daughter and my wife, whom he had never seen in his life, and it was like he spied on us,” says the producer. The cartoonist then offered to publish a book. After thinking about it for a while, Guy agreed and Éric made more drawings, according to the words of Bébéatrice that inspired him. “We humbly presented this to La Presse editions. They accepted right away,” recalls PapaGuy. But it did not stop there. “As soon as the book came out, people started saying that we should make a cartoon out of it.”
Producer and Beatrice’s father, Guy A Lepage – Photo: Julie Perreault
Time and People
Although there was interest in a cartoon right at the book’s launch, Guy A Lepage did not make a decision right away: “What I always liked with the Bébéatrice project is that we never rushed it. We took our time before making the book. It also took a while before we made it into a cartoon. Each time, we got together and asked ourselves if we wanted to do it, if it would betray the work, if we could make it into more than a book, if the cartoon could have an impact. Because we did not have to do it, we did it under the best creating conditions.”
Guy A Lepage enjoys working with small creative teams, as he did when he created Un gars, une fille. He wanted to make Bébéatrice a family project: “I thought it would be interesting to do this project with my wife, my daughter and my friends. There is a lot of writing. So, I called a few writer friends who are also parents for them to suggest ideas that I could adapt for Bébéatrice’s character.” In addition to his daughter Béatrice and his wife, producer Mélanie Campeau (aka Mamanie), Guy joined forces with Luc Châtelain, producer at Echo Média to launch the project. Since animation is a speciality, Didier Loubat, an experienced director in the field, was called in to join the team. Guy knew him from his animations of the Bye Bye and Rock et Belles Oreilles intros. Éric Godin, illustrator for the book, became a co-producer and oversaw artistic direction. The concept became a 30-minute television show, presented on ICI Radio-Canada, and is also available in short web clips on Tou.tv.
Illustrator Eric Godin – Photo: Isabelle Hamel-Blouin. (Source: ARP.media)
The Difference with Animation
Guy A Lepage is used to television productions, however producing cartoons was a completely new experience for him. Although the result might seem easy to achieve, it requires a lot of work: “At 58, I was doing something that I had never done before, even though I did everything in the television and film industry! This is the most complex thing I have ever done! There is no shooting in animation. We cannot film all kinds of shots to help with the editing when a scene is not working out. It does not exist in animation. Every set, every camera angle, must be drawn. Everything you did not plan and order does not exist. When I was working on Un gars, une fille and on Rock et Belles Oreilles, we sometimes improvised on set and added jokes. In animation, if they are not planned beforehand, as soon as we start production, nobody can save your skit. Many steps have to be approved and it requires a lot more work.”
Bébéatrice – Design: Éric Godin
Despite the difficult aspect of animation, PapaGuy has a lot of fun with this project: “It is a fun project to work on, and I now enjoy it! During the first year, I thought it would never end. We wrote 85 minutes and we worked on it full-time for eight and a half months to create it. Every detail must be planned. Obviously, directors and cartoonists can take initiative, but it must remain consistent. Not to mention that their drawings must all perfectly fit with Éric Godin’s artwork. However, there is something very stimulating about it. I am very happy with the result. We will keep on doing it as long as we have fun!” And the fun continues with the team currently working on a third season.
Bébéatrice – Design: Éric Godin
Behind the Jokes
The Bébéatrice series can be watched the same way we eat cookies from a jar: with a smile, to enjoy, without asking questions. Yet perhaps, we may also think about the space we allow children to take up. As PapaGuy explains: “I would like the audience to remember that children are not second-class citizens. Five-year-old children say everything that is on their mind or that they feel. The adults are the ones that correct them in order to teach them that certain things can or cannot be said out loud. However, at their core, children are very instinctive and do not filter their feelings. They show us the world as it is, in a raw way. There is a truth in all this that we should listen to. I find it fascinating.”
The first child he listens to is his own daughter, who never ceases to impress him: “Béatrice comes up with incredible jokes! She is a little thought-machine. I do not want to stop her. I want her to be polite, but I want her to feel free to express herself for as long as possible. I want her to say what she wants and what she does not want. I think it is a great quality to possess in life and my wife and I do not want to be repressive parents.”
Bébéatrice – Design: Éric Godin
A book that became a series, a beautiful family project, and received nominations at the Gémeaux Awards and the Olivier Awards… Guy A Lepage has good reason to be proud of Bébéatrice. Aside from the project’s success, he can also say that he is leaving a very special gift for his daughter, one that few parents can offer their child: the story of her childhood in the form of drawings, made with humour and love.