After having lived a host of adventures in books and on television, Toopy and Binoo make the jump to the cinema this Friday. “Admit that I’m too awesome”, would probably say, with the voice of Marc Labrèche, the mouse known in more than 175 countries. Back to the birth of the friendly duo with the co-writers and co-directors of Toopy and Binou: the film, Dominique Jolin and Raymond Lebrun.
When she began writing toddler books with an imaginative rodent as the hero, Dominique Jolin “never thought” that her character could one day become the star of a television series. Even less than a movie. “I wrote Toopy and Binoo alone at home 30 years ago,” she recalls.
In the 1990s, Héritage editions (Dominique et Compagnie) contacted the prolific author and illustrator for young people to create “baby books”. This is good, since she has just invented a new character: Brutus. His inspiration? Dominique Jolin smiles mischievously knowing that the story she is about to tell is both funny and absurd, just like her series.
While she was in a grocery store, she saw a dog pass between the ice cream counter and the fresh fish counter. “I went to tell the clerk and there he said, ‘It’s Brutus. It’s a big rat that we’ve been trying to catch for two weeks,” she laughs.
You guessed it, Brutus has become Toopy. Why this name change? “Because 2-year-olds can’t say the Rs,” replies Dominique Jolin. She knows it, since she tested it with toddlers. “I chose Toopy because it was the cutest name in a child’s mouth. »
Toopy and Binoo characters are quickly adopted by preschoolers and their parents. So much so that in Dominique Jolin’s head, an idea germinated: to create a TV series. Initially, his project did not receive the expected reception: “I was always told no. I was told that there wasn’t a lot of money for children’s programming. »
Thanks to his perseverance, Dominique Jolin finally succeeded in convincing Spectra Animation, which became Écho Média, in 2003 to bring the two friends to life. Since budgets are limited, he is offered “to film the books”. However, this idea is far from the cartoon of which the writer dreams. This option does not pack director Raymond Lebrun either, to whom the production house wants to entrust the project.
“I didn’t like the script. I also didn’t like the idea of filming the books. I was on the verge of saying no, but then they introduced me to Dominique, “he says, smiling at the one who has become his friend.
“Raymond was like, ‘Look, we could do this.’ He started making little people. I was laughing. It was really funny,” recalls Dominique Jolin. Canadian children’s channel Treehouse liked the pilot so much that instead of 52 5-minute episodes, they ordered 104. Another season followed. In 2005, Télé-Québec was the first to broadcast the episodes in French.
And now a film will be released in theaters this Friday. On the big screen, Toopy and Binoo visit the world of lost objects in order to find Mr. Mou. To achieve this, they can count on the help of new characters to whom Anne Dorval, Geneviève Schmidt, Xavier Dolan and Stéphane Rousseau lend their voices.
Unlike many children’s works, Toopy and Binoo does not claim to be an educational series. “It’s fun first and foremost,” says Dominique Jolin. I like when it’s absurd and strange. […] A bit like Sol and Goblet. In the scenarios, however, the Jolin-Lebrun duo slips values that are dear to them. An example ? Politeness. “In the film, everyone uses you. […] Me, I find it important, respect and good manners, ”says the author, before praising the beauty of the formal address. “There are also never any villains in our stories, because in Toupie’s imagination, there are no villains, there are just mistakes, blunders”, underlines his accomplice.
Toopy is indeed very blundering. Expressive, naive and joyful, he marvels at everything. His sidekick Binou, a tiny mute cat, is rather calm and thoughtful, but also a joker. Where do the personality traits of the two friends come from?
After the movie, will Toopy and Binoo make a return to TV? The two screenwriters hope so. But until then, they are working separately on book projects as well as together on a new cartoon.
“It’s my first princess role ever,” laughs Genevieve Schmidt when asked to describe the character she voices. The one who doesn’t have a first name, but has a title, “beautiful princess”, has a lot of character. “She is condescending, me, myself and I, selfish…”, lists the actress. Although she has an unsympathetic side, the “beautiful princess” is also very funny.
Anne Dorval loves dubbing, even more when it comes to cartoons. “It looks like we have more freedoms, underlines the one who lends her voice to Dorothée. My character is a benevolent genius who is addicted to his cell phone. She has this little flaw that is very present in many young people and adults. It made me laugh a lot. He is someone […] who is always in the excess of happiness, benevolence, optimism. I find this beautiful. »
The “identical twin” of Jacques-Henri, Jean-Jacques “is a little fearful about just about everything,” says Stéphane Rousseau. If the two brothers are in the world of lost objects, it is because they are looking for their father. A situation that illustrates the “crazy” side of Toopy and Binoo that the actor says he appreciates. As a child, his son also listened to the series over and over. “I really liked that universe,” says Stéphane Rousseau.
“My character, in a good mood and benevolence, tries to take care of his brother”, says Xavier Dolan, about Jacques-Henri. He tries to show Jean-Jacques the way and instill confidence in him. “It’s quite beautiful, by the way, when you think about it,” he says. It’s done with humor and ridicule, but, in depth, there is a message of brotherhood that is important. »