Puy du Fou’s Artistic Push

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Tootlafrance paid another visit to one the world’s most amazing theme parks and also caught up with Scottish photographer Finlay Mackay, who is transforming the way in which Puy du Fou is promoted

The second most popular theme park in France (after mega-park Disneyland) is the Puy du Fou. Unlike the traditional American-style theme park, however, the Puy du Fou is a community-inspired creation where there are none of the frustrating queues.

Instead, it turns the notion of the theme park on its head and involves a series of shows, each of which is stunning and worth the price of the entrance ticket in itself.

Finished product: A "painted" scene from one of the Puy du Fou's new campaign posters

Finished product: A “painted” scene from one of the Puy du Fou’s new campaign posters

Anyone visiting Western France – particularly around the Vendée area – will have seen many posters advertising the unique attraction.

The latest advertising campaign of the park that’s running throughout this year’s season involves a new approach inspired by creative photographer Finlay Mackay, who specialises in photo-painting.

Designed by advertising agency Les Gros Mots, the campaign uses a new “History is waiting for you” strap-line and captures the scale, detail and theatre of Puy du Fou’s historical shows.

Inspiration for the artwork was taken from the work of painters, including Delacroix, Géricault, Velasquez and Ingres, whose powerful masterpieces have inspired emotion over the centuries.

The images combine elements from different Puy du Fou’s shows to tell their highly charged and complex stories in one frame.

A team of nearly 300 people worked on the 10-day shoot, which resulted in 5,454 camera shots.

Nicolas de Villiers, President, Puy du Fou, said: “This approach represents a complete break with traditional theme park advertising. While nothing compares to seeing the shows in person, we believe that the campaign captures the grandeur, spectacle and passion that goes into everything we do at Puy du Fou. We are incredibly proud of this campaign, as it represents our commitment to creating a world that fully transports visitors out of the 21st century.”

How did the partnership between Finlay and the Puy du Fou come about?

Mackay on set: "Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic and got involved, even though we were shooting in heavy rain a lot of the time."

Mackay on set:
“Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic and got involved, even though we were shooting in heavy rain a lot of the time.”

“The agency Les Gros Mots saw my folio and got in contact,” says the 40-something Scot – a graduate of Glasgow School of Art. “I hadn’t heard of it (Puy du Fou), but as soon as the layouts came through my interest was piqued. It’s a very unique place and I’ve always wanted to shoot large-scale battle scenes, but understandably that’s not something that comes along every day!”

The photographer is based in New York these days and doesn’t normally work in France but says that he’d love to work there more often in this “beautiful country”.

The Puy du Fou is a community-based project with a famous can-do spirit of entrepreneurship where nothing is impossible. Did he find evidence of any of that while working on this project?

“The greatest thing about the shoot was the cast… although the sets are incredible too. Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic and got involved, even though we were shooting in heavy rain a lot of the time. On the Vikings shot, many people were standing waist deep in water for hours yet they still managed to give a great performance. That’s what they do every day, their attitude helped immensely.”

Set Communication: Mackay says that he speaks French "only when I'm backed into a corner" but had no trouble working with people whose "attitude helped immensely"

Set Communication: Mackay says that he speaks French “only when I’m backed into a corner” but had no trouble working with people whose “attitude helped immensely”

Does he speak any French?

“Only when I’m backed into a corner, I need a lot of practice!”

Mackay is a native Glaswegian who came through the system in a very classic time-honoured manner: studying photography in his home city for 4 years, before working as a photographer’s assistant in London for another 5 years. It wasn’t until 2003 that he began to shoot for himself.

“I loved to paint and draw and that side has asserted itself in the way I use lighting and sometimes composition, although I find it’s good to experiment with just shooting and capturing moments and trying not to control things too much.”

Even though the shoots were long and involved large-scale staging for this campaign, the results look like moments of majestic movement, captured and painted in a classic manner that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery alongside a Eugène Delacroix tableau.

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