The trio of Weil, Moébius and Mézières supervised seven up-and-coming illustrators — of French, Brazilian, British and American extraction — who toiled collectively on Besson's concepts. The initial preproduction sessions began in November of 1991 and continued for a year until the project's temporary hiatus. Drafting resumed in September of 1994, when Columbia Pictures acquired rights to the film, and continued through principal photography.
Once a week, Besson offered the artists a description of a particular living being, or inanimate instrument, speaking only in terms of its intangible qualities. The illustrators had one week to devise a sketch based upon Besson's idea. The director then surveyed all of the sketches and, with Weil, selected one or asked for portions of several drawings to be melded into one design.
After the first year, the team generated some 3,000 images. When prep recommenced in 1994, Besson and Weil picked the best concepts; the artistic collective then proceeded to devise additional designs. When all was said and done, approximately 8,000 sketches were created. (Elevated plane models of the various sets were later constructed so that Besson could conceive potential shots.)
Since Weil hails from a realist background, the production designer steered his artistic team towards a functional futurism free from cumbersome, gimmicky hardware. He says, "Since I was working with sci-fi artists, I had to fight a lot against the mechanical and technical exaggerations of sci-fi imagery. A vacuum cleaner, for example, is just a piece of plastic that starts when you press your foot on it. When you design a vacuum cleaner for a sci-fi film, you need to add lots of little lights and pipes, and smoke vapor, so that what you have becomes a lot more complicated. My daily battle with everyone was not to make things simplistic, but to make them at least as simple as they are in the real world."
It's basically a Heavy Metal comic brought to life, which is why the movie rules.
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