Princess Sissi was 1997 Tv series that was extremely popular all around the world and was based on the life of Elizabeth of Austria. Here is a little interview of one of the main screenwriters of the show who agreed to answers some of my questions !
Can you tell us a little about yourself and about this project?
My name is Claude Scasso, TV movies screenwriter, after having worked quite a lot in animation (Marsupilami, The Odyssey, Walter Melon, Cedric ... and the feature film Pinocchio the Robot).
I have always wanted to do that job but it was hard to break through.
One day I woke up with a thought : but who writes animated series? I inquired and a friend of mine at Canal+ gave me some contacts and two weeks later, I began working on my first series: Princess Sissi.
When I arrived, a team of authors was already established and the first series of the 13 episodes were being distributed. I inherited of the episode 13; I was thrilled but I had to wait for the others' works to progress before starting to really write. Finally, my ideas were really appreciated, I was acknowledged for my work and so and I got to write more for the show.
What was the role of France in this project and that of Canada?
The episodes would have logically been written half in France and half in Canada but the fact is all the story and developments of the arches were made in France. And I was led to rewrite several times Canadian scenarios that were not up to the standard without getting credit for it.
Obviously, their authors were working too far away from our energy that was in perpetual motion; ideas did not circulate well.
The texts were reread and discussed not only in France,and Canada but also by the Italian co-producers and the U.S. broadcaster. This often led to lots of contradictory remarks: the French commented more on the structure ... The Italians wanted romance to always be present, the Canadians were not involved much and the Americans were obsessed with anything that might offend the young audiance ...
I remember one of my episodes that the Italians had found too violent and the Americans too romantic. I gathered that I didn’t have to change anything, it was perfect.
How did you create the characters and their personalities? (Sissi and Helena who were actually sisters and very close, for example.)
When I arrived on the series, the main characters were already quite defined . Much writing work had already preceded with other authors who have disappeared .Tommy, for example, was already well constructedI was surprised at the distances taken away from reality but I got adjusted to it and then from then on we continued to let our imagination flow ...
We even invented an Austro-Hungarian war that never took place but something that fascinated the Americans,who were excited about this chapter of the story. My work consisted of characterizing most of the small details about the individual characters. I was the king of the gimmick sentences on this show : “Not more complicated !" for Tina, "Ridiculous!" for Helena. the mutterings of Von Grossberg ,the animated shadow of Zottornick etc..
What were the steps to be followed and what was the average amount of time that you had to write an episode?
Honestly, I do not remember. I think that writing the 52 episodes lasted a year and a half, which is quite short. The pace was very intensive.
We wrote blindly. I saw for the first time an episode of Sissi well after writing episode 52.
What did you keep of the "real" life of Elizabeth or the films with Romy Schneider?
Whenever we were short of ideas for the next adventures, we would return to the real story ... and we would find nothing.
Indeed,We had changed too many things : Ida Ferenczy, for example, had become a Hungarian friend instead of being her lady and this was to be able to find a companion for Andrassy, who in real life was Sissi’s lover.
Of course, we kept the main places of her life but we added Paris as well, the island where her father was deported and many other crazy and imaginary things.And then we had to tell the story of Sissi’s life putting her marriage to Franz only until episode 52 ,whereas we all know it took place way before then.
As for the films, we weren’t inspired by them for the story but they were present in our minds. We had to find that romance touch that had made the success of the movies, of course.
Do you have a favorite episode?
I love the screenplay of the 13th one, but the animation of this episode is disastrous.I also really love the episodes with Prince Fritz as well as “The Quarrel” episode which is lovely because it is the only one outside the global drama. A bubble which works on its own for 26 minutes.
I also find that the two final episodes are quite successful as well. We had a great time integrating in them all the characters encountered before, each in his/her characterization.
Are you aware of any re-releasing of the show on DVD?
No but the one that exists is complete and quite descent. Yes, the image is poor but then again it has the credit of existing.
What are your plans now?
Too many ...
I just worked in animation again : two episodes for a series called "Sherlock Yack" and a lot of fiction projects for France Television.