Paul et Gaëtan BRIZZI : meeting and interview
If you know this site, you know that I had the luck to get in touch with the BRIZZI brothers, Paul and Gaetan, the creators of the French mini-comic "Duel sur Diaclona" that is behind the success of the range of CEJI Joustra Diaclone toys.
Initially, they offered me to finally discover episodes 2 and 3 of their comic made in 1985. Everything has been posted on this site. And knowing that they were still owning a few treasures from that era, blister pack test shots, flats and test boxes, and being lucky enough to have them agree to let me have them, we agreed to meet up in Paris. This meeting was held on Friday, December 12th 2014, in a beautiful setting, "Le Train Bleu (The Blue train) / Big Ben Bar" restaurant at the Gare de Lyon train station. Here is the first interview with Paul and Gaëtan BRIZZI about their collaboration with the CEJI Joustra firm on the now legendary toy line: DIACLONE.
How did you get involved in the CEJI-Joustra Diaclone toy project?
"We were contacted by the firm in late 1984. They explained their project to market their new transformable robot toys, and the sales strategy they'd thought of: promoting the products by introducing them in a comic, from which they would source some illustrations to adorn the boxes with."
What was the specification?
"We had total freedom. We wrote the script ourselves, and at no time did Joustra officials step in. That is pretty rare in the world of advertising/marketing. It is common to be asked to change this or that, to show this detail, to remove another, etc.. Here, no one wanted to change anything, and everything was validated as is."
How long did it take you to create the comics?
"We were young and worked a great deal at that time. This could go up to 70 hours per week. 1984-1985 were the most prolific years for us. During those two years we achieved the work on Diaclone, the story-board for the Roman POLANSKI movie "Pirates", and at the same time directed the film "Asterix and Caesar". For Diaclone, we were drawing 2 pages per week (note: an episode consists of 4 pages). It took less than 6 months. We have really good memories of this work. We really drew our illustrations with care, and today we are still very proud of this achievement. At that time, in the 80s, publications for an audience of children and teenagers did not require this much work. The drawings were less polished, more "rough". We treated that project like anything we've ever done... With care, passion, attention to detail. A lot of work was done on the colors."
How did you split the roles while creating the comics?
Gaëtan BRIZZI: "As we have always done. Paul was in charge of the characters, and me of the backgrounds. On Diaclone it was a little different because for the robots' humanoid form, the drawing was carried out by Paul, but for their transformed shapes (car, gun, truck, etc ..) it was me who performed it."
Paul BRIZZI: "We also made the drawing which is the cover for the comic in watercolor, but only that drawing. The layout (note: with horizontal bands of red / yellow / orange) and logo were added by CEJI-Joustra. By the way we gave that artwork to a member of their team, once the work was finished. "
Did you intervene in the final work step on the "toys' boxes" product?
"No, we only worked on the front of the boxes. Joustra gave us the dimensions for the boxes, and we left the top part free to include the color banner and Diaclone logo they had created".
So you recreated the same picture several times? For example, on the box for Ambulance, we can see it looks immaculate in robot mode, whereas in the episode of the cartoon where the toy appears, it is full of mud and silt?
Gaëtan BRIZZI: "In fact, comic pages all were very carefully cut to extract the art that was intended to appear on the front of the box. For Ambulance for example, Paul designed the pristine Ambulance robot, the whole thing was cut out and carefully extracted to be used for the creation of the toy box, and then returned to the original page where dirt was added to stick to the scenario and finalize the comic."
On some boxes, characters appear whereas they are not in the comic. This is the case with "Pick-up" that appears on the transformed Ambulance box or "Diaclone Truck" that appears in robot mode on its own box next to himself in truck mode.
"We had to cheat because of course in the scenario, Diaclone Truck can not be simultaneously in robot and Truck mode... For those two boxes, additional art was created (note: there is nothing left of it)".
When you sent me episodes 2 and 3 over a year ago, I was stunned to discover episodes 11 and 12 !!! (Reminder: Diaclone toys were distributed in two waves. The first is generally the only known one. Those are the toys that highlight the BRIZZI brothers' illustrations. It consists of episodes 1 to 10. A second more obscure series, with almost confidential production, that we still did not know a few years ago, was actually distributed by CEJI Joustra. Boxes announced "Comic inside" but as of today, no comic has EVER been found inside. Also, the art on the boxes is more unfinished, more "simplistic"). In what circumstances did you make episodes 11 and 12?
"CEJI-Joustra officials came to find us, telling us that they had new transforming robots they wanted to promote. We were bothered because we had put an end to the story with episode 10. However, we accepted and implemented a new scenario on two episodes. As with the first wave, we received the brand new toys that we used as models to stage them."
What period of time was there between episodes 1 to 10 and 11 and 12?
Paul BRIZZI : "About 3 weeks... CEJI asked us this time to keep the story in two episodes. We do not know why this work was not used, especially as we were mastering the subject after months spent on the first wave, and we were more experienced and comfortable with this universe of transforming robots. Actually, on episodes 11 and 12 we did an even more successful job on the layout for example (note: I confirm!). We do not know who created the art that was used for Series two boxes".
Did you receive samples from CEJI-Joustra before commercialization?
Gaëtan BRIZZI : "Just out of curiosity I asked for blister cards and boxes to get an idea of the final result. Later, they also sent us a few copies of the toys as finished products... They were given to our children.
We also received several copies of comic strips but in German only. All episodes... Save for episodes 2 and 3. I have treasured this all until... Today. "
A big thank you to Paul and Gaëtan BRIZZI. I was very impressed with their simplicity and kindness in addition to their immense talent as artists. On that occasion, I had the opportunity to admire two of their latest achievements. It is as always an experience that leaves you speechless, especially when you know that they do everything by hand, "old school" as themselves say!
I also had the pleasure to be given an autographed copy of the book they performed the illustration for: The Orlando Furioso. It's SPECTACULAR as always! What amazing talent they have!!
Youtube link to their last interview in 2013 on the occasion of their exhibition "Opera" at Galerie Daniel Maghen: HERE
Also, you absolutely have to see their new website: brizzibrothers.com. The art is pure wonder... !!
HERE is the link to it.
To wrap up this interview, I am pleased to share with you a drawing that Paul BRIZZI made for me during our meeting in just a few minutes. My favorite character in their comic: Jaguar, in an original pose!! When I asked for it, the brothers agreed right away, with this simple comment: "You know, it's been a while since we last drew a robot." Seeing the result, you may wonder if that's true...
What kindness, what generosity and availability to their fans! Paul and Gaëtan BRIZZI: truly classy...
Again, a thousand thanks to you both!
Paul & Gaëtan BRIZZI