The artists, animators and graphic designers Olivier Kuntzel and Florence Deygas met in 1988. Although both are artists in their own right, they collaborate on almost all their projects. They formed their production company, Add A Dog, in 1999. Its most famous work has been the title sequence for Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. They are known for bringing classical skills into a modern design world.
“We wake at 07.00, sometimes with a good idea, always with Hachi-ko and Violette telling us to get up and get out of the house; our dogs (Japanese Shibas) are our furry alarm clocks. We live and work in Clignancourt, the backside of Montmartre. After breakfast Hachi-ko gets very pushy and wins the battle to leave the house, so he gets his walk and we make the 10-minute trek to the studio around 10.00. Walking is a good way to come up with ideas. If you don’t realise you’re thinking, you’re thinking.
We start sketching from the moment we wake up, with breakfast. It’s second nature: we do it as we talk, as we think – it’s automatic. Sketching is like training the hand to translate your imagination. You don’t have an idea every day, but when you do, you’re able to express it.
We live in our old studio. We try to keep our work and life separate but really there’s no point – each informs the other. It’s true that you often have your best ideas at the weekend, when you’re relaxed. We still use the ground floor as a photo studio and our library is there, so we never stop. We’re not workaholics but we get emails from Japan at 08.00; we wake up with the dogs and the Japanese!
Our crew can be just two, or 20, depending on the project we’re working on. Our freelancers are very independent and we don’t have any official sort of management. This means some get in at 09.30 and some at 18.00 – perhaps they have been up all night being creative?
That’s why we have lunch. You have to be here at 13.00 or 13.30 or you don’t get any, so people miraculously tend to turn up just in time. Lunch is the best way to share what we have to say and get feedback from our crew. We thought it was such a shame to have all the charcuteries, fromageries and wonderful vegetables in the markets all around but expect people to grab a sandwich from a shop. Our lunches have become an institution, but people still want to work so we don’t have to clap our hands to clear the table. Not every day, anyway.
Our old place became too impractical: when we wanted to do a photo shoot we had to take all the computers and desks out and put them in the road. This barn was an old warehouse for glass and mirrors, but when we bought it in 2000 all it contained was a single Bakelite telephone and 10 tonnes of dust. The layout of the place means that the different parts of the building are all open, all look different and have a different personality, so you think differently depending where you sit. Although we’re quite nomadic inside our own space here, we’re glad not to travel very much for work. If we were in Tokyo one day and London the next, we couldn’t pull it off. Our environment is a tool like anything else and we need it to be constant to work well and make things. We need our papers and our inks.
It’s a great space: if we want to have a party or people over for drinks, we just open the doors and there’s enough room for dancing. We have a big screen and a projector and would like to watch movies in the evening, but as soon as the screen goes down the dogs start staring at us. Eventually it becomes too unnerving so we head home. The dogs set our timetable. They are so pushy – the curtain opens and their little faces are staring at us.
The studio is the definition of the atelier d’artiste: you can see our drawings and work but none of it is purposeful or corporate. We are all influenced by our environment: our tools, books, music, mess – we interact with it and it moulds what we make. If you want to know who we are and what inspires us, you can take a look over here, take in some detail over there, look through our music collection or look through our library.
The people that work with us mostly love to come here. Perhaps they think, “Ah, the work is cool!” But the work is not cool – it’s often harder than anything else, but if they like the environment and are clever collaborators, we are happy for them to think it’s all cool, of course.
We went from being Olivier and Florence to Kuntzel + Deygas quite soon after we met. People thought Olivier was the boss. We were in a meeting with a film distributor whose wife was a porn star and the guy said, “Take notes young lady and please pay attention!”
For the first five or six years we spent time designing things with no budget; there was no money in France at that time for animation, which was considered out of fashion, while graphic design was considered a cheap thing for kids. Our view has always been the opposite – that animation and graphic design can be elegant and meaningful. Our title sequence for Catch Me If You Can was elegant and memorable. The market generally would not use an animation to do something smart like that. They think animation is for comedy or children.
That’s why we feel very close to Japan – we love the way the Japanese understand drawings as something that can communicate anything to anyone. Perhaps they have a respect for the image that other people reserve for the word. Sketches are very quick – we just draw and what happens is almost an accident. Catch Me If You Can’s original drawings were scribbled on the back of an envelope. We buy a lot of beautiful, high quality tools and papers and cardboard and never use them, of course. The animations start with a stamp. We make them from Läufer erasers, cut them with a scalpel and dye them with Japanese ink from Shachihata. We’ve always used the same materials, originally because they were cheap, and they still work better than anything else we know.
People know us best for Caperino and Peperone – the two dogs we created. Cap and Pep speak with bits of text, express ideas, use philosophy and aphorisms; their ideas are about society and the universe – they are existentialists, too, those little dogs. We treat them like stars of the silent movies.
Our lives and our work are one thing. We’re always having ideas. Some creative people are hunters – we are much slower: we are not at all against the idea of losing time. Perhaps we are inefficient.
We didn’t actually have a dog when we named our company Add A Dog. It happened in Japan. We’d done a commercial and the client said, “Perhaps we are missing something at the end of the film,” and we said, “Why not add a dog?” Adding a dog is a good thing. If I see a magazine ad that looks a little bare, I sketch in a Cap and Pep. If you want to touch your dog, it’s therapeutic. If you’re in the street, someone will want to touch your dog, and that’s fine. But people can’t just touch you – that’s weird. Things changed for us with the dogs – because they want to go out, to walk, to be boss. At 21.00 we really have to go: when they start staring at us it makes sure we don’t spend too long at work.