Animationweek a global creative hub Sat, 14 Jul 2018 21:27:00 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 “Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires”; under its skin with Mike Mort Sat, 30 Jun 2018 12:30:53 +0000

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is a stop-motion action-horror-comedy animated feature filled to the brim with epic stop-motion action sequences, inspired by and paying great homage to the great action movies of the 80’s.

Around close to midnight on 12th June, the world premiere of Animortal Studio’s debut feature was held in Annecy, France, as a part of Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2018.

After the world premiere, I could hear the story behind the film and the development process from the director of the film Mike Mort. I’m excited to share his words with you.

Interview with Mike Mort

Trayton Scott: Where did the initial idea of the story come from?

Mike Mort: I came up the character Chuck Steel when I was 15 years old whilst still in school. I used to doodle him when I should’ve been listening in class. Around that time, I used to make Super-8 short films with the character. When I went to college, I made more short films. When I got into the industry as an animator and director, I’ve always been trying to make a film with that character. I wrote the feature script in 2001, and I was in Annecy 15 years ago trying to get this film made. I wasn’t getting any luck, because adult animation is quite hard to get funded, since people are still a little nervous about it. It didn’t go anywhere for a number of years, and I parked it on a shelf.

Then around 2012, I was just frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t getting anywhere with my ideas, and I just felt the need to make another Chuck Steel short film, so I decided to make another short film in my basement. I wrote a 15-minute short film script, which was based on the idea of trying to make a 3-act feature structure to show what it could be if it were to be expanded. I came up with a scenario and a basic story that worked in that way. I’ve set about making the models, and I made a cast of about 20 characters and also started making the set, because I’ve been a model maker myself. I’ve just been able to do it on my own, so I just thought I’d be there for the next few years making that film.

Then I got introduced to businessmen, who are now my business partners, who have invested in lots of different things, but are also huge animation fans, particularly in a project I did a few years ago called Gogs. They came on-board and helped me complete the funding of the short film. We had a crew of 6 working on that in my basement for the next 18 months. That worked out really well, and as soon as we done that, we started talking about making a feature film, and I already had the script from 2001, ready to go. I did try to talk them out of doing that script, thinking it’s too big, there’s too many characters in it, it’s too hard, but they wanted to do it. I’m glad they did, because we pulled of an epic stop-motion film, I think.

Trayton Scott: I thought this film was such a great spoof of the 80’s action movies. What elements of those movies inspired you for Chuck Steel?

Mike Mort: I grew up in the 80’s, and I loved all those old Chuck Norris, Steve Segal, and Bruce Willis action movies. Cobra was a real influence, it was such a ludicrous action film, but at the time it was released, it was just a straight-up action film. You watch it now, and you would just laugh.

I began re-watching these films when I had the idea for the short film. I would look and notice how they were lit, and they were lit in a way that there is a lot of shadow, with little bits of light in the darkness, and I thought this was actually quite easy to achieve on a small budget. You can create the same atmosphere with minimal actual set builds, and it’s all about the look of the film, the lens flares, the little camera moves, things like that which make it feel authentic, and are easy to achieve now with software.

I researched all those films again and I try to put as much of them into the short film as I could, because when I started the short film, I thought that would be the end of it. I would just do another short film and leave it there, but I got lucky with meeting my business partners, and here we are now with the feature film.

Trayton Scott: What was the most difficult part in your whole journey of making the story?

Mike Mort: For the feature film, the hardest part was the sheer scale of what we were trying to do. I think we got a thousand more shots in this film than any other stop motion film.

We had to make those stylistic choices and have lots and lots of small shots in the film, which is hard to achieve in animation because of the setup time. Lighting it, moving the camera, etc., all adds time to your production shoots. Trying to do this film on a budget that’s a lot smaller than other stop-motion films, whilst trying to add more characters and more shots, was the challenge. We are trying to keep that epic scale whilst being an independent movie, really, and trying to come off like we are a big budget film.

Trayton Scott: I thought the film had such great, memorable characters. What was your process in developing them?

Mike Mort: Like I said, the character Chuck Steel was from when I was 15, so it was 30 years of thinking about a character and how he works. Obviously, when I started the character, he was a bit more simplistic. I started to get into learning about writing and script structure, and character development. It came naturally to me through that type of character, because it was so familiar to me and I liked writing dialogue that is ridiculous as well, especially the scenes with Jack and Chuck talking. It in those scenes, it is almost like you are arguing with yourself, in your head. It just flows, you know?

I wouldn’t say there’s tons of character development, since they are such archetypal, clichéd characters, but I just wanted to make them as ridiculous as possible and push the absurdity of those clichés. At the same time, I wanted to give them a little bit of humanity somehow, just through the way the story develops and how they interact with each other, and how they are friends even though they are constantly shouting at each other.

Trayton Scott: The film was so entertaining with a lot of very funny jokes. During the premier on Tuesday, the audience was just roaring with laughter, so what do you think is the best way of integrating such funny gags and jokes into the script?

Mike Mort: A hard question, because when I tend to write, I do mull over scenes for a while, I get little ideas for moments in the film, either action sequences, or just silly lines and ideas for conversations, and sometimes that comes from real life. I try to keep notes of lines that pop into my head, but it’s an organic process, so sometimes you sit there trying to make that dialogue work and it doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you sit there and it just flows. It’s not something I can really explain.

There are also a lot of references to the 80’s as well, so there are jokes in there that people will recognize, or it’d be nods to other films, but I didn’t want to make it too obviously spoofing a particular film. I wanted it to feel like a film from that era, but not necessarily having specific elements from specific films like Lethal Weapon or Die Hard. I didn’t want to do something too reminiscent, just make it stylistically feel like those films.

Trayton Scott: The film is such a spectacle with so much action and gore. How did you accomplish such a dynamic visual with stop motion animation? What was the most difficult technical challenge?

Mike Mort: The action scenes are actually quite fun to storyboard. I love coming up with action scenes and set pieces. In the storyboarding phase, you have to be as detailed as you can, but there was a little bit of freedom on the set to, for example add a little cutaway of an explosion or a bullet, because of the pace of the edit we wanted to make. Because this is an animation, you do have to try to plan that as much as possible, so there was a long storyboarding phase.

The way we created that dynamic live-action feel is to keep the camera moving all the time, so even if we don’t use a motion-control rig for the shot, we do hand-held wobbling in post-production, and we add things like lens flare, dust and dirt, things like that, just to bring it away from stop motion and more into the live-action arena.

The storyboarding phase is a fun phase, but you are meant to go into it without any limits. You just do what you think is going to work, and figure out the problems later.

Actually, one of the hardest things in the film are the dialogue scenes. The puppets had basically a solid skull with a Plasticine skin, and you have to take the head off, sculpt the lips in, and put the head back on, for every frame. I only did it this way because it’s the way I know how, and that’s a really long way of doing it. Nobody else does it like that anymore, because it’s stupid (laughs).

But we did it because stylistically we didn’t want it to look like replacement mouths and replacement heads, because we didn’t have the budget to do the ultra-slick facial replacements like in Laika Entertainment. That requires such a long period of pre-production and rapid prototyping and all of that. We just didn’t have access to that, so the work ended up being done in the shot by the animator.

It was the one thing that slowed down the production down a lot, and it was hard for people to sometimes do. It’s a particular skill. In hindsight, we will try and find a quicker way of doing that next time.

The actual fighting and action scenes… They are no more challenging than most other stop-motion shots. In fact, there is a benefit to them because they are short. A long stop-motion shot can go wrong in the middle, and you have to go back and fix it. With an action shot, it can sometimes be 12 frames long, and you can get through that quite quickly. You know in the edit that you are going to shake the camera a bit and add motion-blur in post-production, so sometimes the flaws in the animation disappear. With that, you can be slightly more forgiving when you’re approving a shot.

You can be ultra-fussy about stop-motion, but it was none of that with some of the short action sequences. As long as the shot had the right vibe, and I knew it was going to work, we would usually go through with it on the first take.

Trayton Scott: There were a lot of impressively gory scenes of characters with melting skin all the way to the bone. How was that achieved in stop-motion?

Mike Mort: For the melting scenes, most of our human characters we stylistically needed to have Plasticine faces on them, so they would have that life to them. For the villains, as soon as they became a creature or a trampire, we went to a latex skin, which was painted with acrylics for it to look like the 80’s style of prosthetics and monster effects from that era. And that was a stylistic choice.

When it came down to the melting scenes, we would have the trampire puppet or the creature be latex for most shots. As soon as we got to a shot where it needed to melt, it would be replaced by a version that was basically a skeleton, with a skin on top of it that was made from meltable red wax that is painted with acrylics quite thickly, and that would yet create another layer of skin.

For each frame you are trying to animate this character, you would put a heat gun or a hairdryer onto it and it would slightly melt. You would take the frame as it’s melting, and then take the heat away so it wouldn’t melt too quickly. It was quite hard to judge whether it’s too much, and whether to take it away. The painted skin would actually sag and look like skin, revealing the red melted blood underneath. Once that fell off, it revealed the skeleton sculpt that was there, so it was like a three-layered thing.

As you can see in the film, a lot of those melting shots are quite quick, because you can only control that stuff so far, because it is actually melting frame-by-frame. But there’s no CGI with it. We did add smoke coming off and blood spraying coming out of eyes in post-production, but the whole thing was a stop-motion meltdown.

Trayton Scott: There was an impressive variety of trampire characters. We would like some insights on the pipeline of designing, fabricating, and rigging a puppet.

Mike Mort: The creature and character designs I did myself during the pre-production. One of my favorite things to do is character designs, so I can just sit down with a pen and come up with a hundred trampires, a hundred tramps, two hundred crowds, and so on. That was during the pre-production phase, and I really enjoyed that.

Then that goes to our construction team, or our puppet team. If our character were human, they would be sculpted with Plasticine, and if they were trampires, they would be with latex. Each one was with a ball-and-socket armature. We didn’t use any wire armatures because we knew they were going to break, so we had to find a reasonable way of doing full armatures for 425 puppets, which is a lot to get through.

We built 5 or 6 body shapes, from tall to short, fat to thin, females and males, and they were cast in a foam material, All the heads were different, but the bodies were variations of these shapes. The hands were interchangeable pieces of silicone that could come out. The shoes were latex slip-on skin things, which were durable. A lot of times, when you use foam latex or silicone, they can tear, but liquid latex is quite durable, so they would last the entire shoot, usually. Whenever we can use liquid latex, we did.

The costumes were handmade after the foam bodies were made.

Trayton Scott: What was it like working with Joris de Man on the score?

Mike Mort: I met Joris on a short film, because I played a game called Killzone 2, and I heard the music thinking “Wow, this is really great music for a game”, and I looked at the credits and made a note of his name. I looked him up, and it turned out that he is married to an animation producer I worked with years ago, and he is based in the UK, so I rang him for the short film.

He did such a good job with just digital instruments that sounds like a real orchestra, and I think he is a genius for getting such an authentic 80’s score. Luckily on this film, we were able to record it with an actual philharmonic orchestra in Prague, so Joris has been key to this film feeling like a genuine 80’s film.

I really hope he gets to do more films on the back of this, because he’s such a good composer, and we will be definitely be working together on the next one.


It’s 1986, and Chuck Steel is ‘the best God damn cop on the force’ according to his boss, Captain Jack Schitt. But even this maverick, renegade, loose cannon, lone wolf, cop on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules has his work cut out for him when the Governor of LA decides to reduce the licensing hours for clubs and bars, triggering a sudden, inexplicable spate of high profile assaults in the city.

The attacks all have one thing in common, a crime scene covered in blood but with no sign of the victim. When the latest victim manages to survive an attack, Chuck visits her in hospital and is confronted by a crazed old man who introduces himself as Abraham Van Rental. He warns a disbelieving Chuck that an evil scourge is about to descend on the city of Los Angeles – the scourge of the TRAMPIRES – a mutated hybrid of vampire and tramp…

Warner Bros. Presents: A Look Ahead Wed, 20 Jun 2018 07:48:02 +0000 Warner Animation Group (WAG) and Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) held a program titled “Warner Bros: A Look Ahead” on 11th June during the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2018, and gave a look at 4 exciting upcoming titles: Looney Tunes Cartoons, Teen Titans Go! To the movies, The Lego® Movie 2: The Second Part, and Smallfoot. During the presentation, they uncovered some sneak-previews and clips of the 4 titles. It seemed like they definitely succeeded capturing the full attention of the audience and raised their expectations for their releases by the quality of their works shown.

Looney Tunes Cartoons

Presenter: Peter Browngardt (executive producer)

The first title introduced at the program was a revival of the legendary cartoon masterpiece, Looney Tunes, and it will be titled Looney Tunes Cartoons. Peter’s primary vision of the project was to bring the “Looney” back into the “Tune”.

He showed very expressive concept drawings of characters like Bug Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig by the cartoonists in the team. One innovative idea of the show is that it will be a very cartoonist-driven series. Cartoonists can create a drawing that can inspire a gag, or even an entire full cartoon. He scouts social networking service Instagram for new cartoonists to join the project. He also fully emphasized to the artists the importance of drawing with form, and showed model sheets of Looney Tunes Cartoons characters that included form breakdowns.

He showed an animatic of one of the episodes: The Curse of the Monkey Bird. The audience was roaring with laughter throughout the animatic, and we felt the whole thing was really pushed to the edge as much as possible, and there is no doubt that audience felt like it contained the spirit of the original cartoon series.

Each cartoon will vary from one to six minutes in length, and they will produce 1,000 minutes of all-new Looney Tunes Cartoons animation that will be distributed across multiple platforms – including digital, mobile and broadcast – in 2019.

Teen Titans Go! To the movies

Presenter: Peter Rida Michel (director and producer)

From the globally popular DC Entertainment and Cartoon Network’s animated TV series, Teen Titans Go! will have its first feature film. In this movie, the Teen Titans notice that every superhero has their own movie – except their own.

You can expect a much more theatrical experience to this film over the TV series. Peter particularly noted that in the original TV series, the backgrounds were done with vector graphics in Adobe® Illustrator®. In the new featured film however, the background will feature more hand-painted backgrounds with a much more dramatic composition.

He also mentioned that the film will have a large emphasis on the music, featuring a wide variety of music styles, such as EDM and Rock.

Warner Bros. has granted the development team their entire IP library for use in the film, so be sure to expect a lot of cameos.

The new film is set to release on 27th July, 2018, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

The Lego ® Movie 2: The Second Part

Presenter: Jinko Gotoh (executive producer)

Jinko introduced the sequel of the beloved The Lego® Movie (2014). Phil Lord and Christopher Miller handed over the baton to Mike Mitchell to direct the sequel (Phil and Christopher are still taking part in the film project for screenplay writing and producing). Jinko mentioned that one of the characteristics of the film project is the participation of talented female creators such as Trisha Gum (co-director) and Kristen Anderson (art director).

“The LEGO® Movie 2” reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city. It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. The battle to defeat them and restore harmony to the LEGO® universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.

The Lego® Movie 2: The Second Part will be released in February 8, 2019.


Presenter: Karey Kirkpatrick (director, screenwriter and songwriter)

The very talented Karey Kirkpatrick introduced an original IP to be released as a feature film: Smallfoot. He is the director, screenwriter and songwriter of the film. It is a story about a funny role-reversal of yetis and humans: A yeti, Migo, descends from the mountains, and discovers a creature thought to be a tale of myth by the yetis: A human.

Karey explained that one of the technical challenges was creating realistic snow and fur of the yetis, and a more efficient rendering method was achieved for that. Even so, it takes 200 hours to render a single frame. Then the audience enjoyed a clip from the film, a scene which Karey put a lot of humor into.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. is set to debut Smallfoot in theaters September 28, 2018.

Cartoon 360 at a glance Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:08:17 +0000 The fifth edition of Cartoon 360 was successfully wrapped up at Lille, France on 30th May 2018. 23 animation projects were presented with their diverse transmedia approaches, including AR and VR, which are trending new formats of storytelling in the animation industry.

“Next Stop” was awarded the first honor of the prize among 23 selected projects by La Fabrique des Formats. The award was given to support its prototyping for the first time.

One of the major benefits of presenting projects at Cartoon 360 is the ability to get feedback from industry experts in order to develop your projects further and build your network with the industry. The feedback includes marketing, business models, medium, and the storytelling. All of them are essential in elevating your projects to the next stage.

As Yolanda Alonso, Cartoon 360 director, mentioned in her interview article ( ), there were many VR and AR projects. Here are some interesting VR and AR projects we picked up from the 23 pitched projects.

VR projects

Dashenka: The Story of a Puppy

It is based on a story of a very famous Czech writer Karel Čapek, who is generally known for sci-fi stories, but this project is based on his non sci-fi story about a dog. The producer Jiri Sádek (COFILM) came from the live-action film industry. They have a skilled partner to develop their VR content at Prague, which specializes in visual effects for Hollywood blockbusters such as Assassin’s Creed.

Experts gave several pieces of advice, such as it could be developed as a TV series for preschools in France, which already had an established market, before developing to VR, as the market for kids is still developing. Also, the potential to develop a good VR animation for kids is well regarded because the project is based on a really good old childrens story.

Dreamin’ Zone

It’s a story of the military zone between North and South Korea. The father of the main character is a soldier, and musicians and animals in the VR film will be identified as soldiers. They will try to use AI to make the visuals of character and background interact with the viewers. The animation will be around 20 minutes long. Their prototype already looks unique and the visuals of universe is in a simple and modern-art style.


It is a 10-minute original VR animation of a political and poetic tale. In the story, when soldiers with white scarves appear, Paris loses its culture. It is a story of preservation and promotion of culture and art, and Paris and the Louvre Museum will be in VR. They add a film-grain effect to the surface of the 3D visuals, and it fits well with the story.

An expert suggested this could have success if they make it a traditional 2D animation or graphic novel of the story, as it is a good story. To develop the story in VR, one important aspect to think about is its uniqueness as a VR animation, such as how viewers interact with the story, and VR as a business model is still limited with the size of the potential audience.

Pressure Cooker

It is a comedy drama behind closed doors, which you can enjoy in 20 minutes. We can experience a story of what happens inside a manor house with six main characters. They will make several simultaneous stories in one main story, so that you can enjoy different stories (scenarios) in the same house.

Experts welcomed the project, as it has a good story combined with good visuals, and the production can be managed well technically. They suggested developing this project step-by-step, and not to use the whole potentially high budget in one stretch. It would be more feasible if they start creating one content to a certain level with an affordable cost and test it with audience, and then they further find an audience and platform they will focus on.

Half a Life

It is a VR project as one of transmedia approaches of an animated documentary film to deliver the reality of LGBTQ refugees. A journalist, Tamara Shogaolu, is leading the project passionately for more than 7 years.

One advice from an expert is to present different issues in the right order for the audience to be able to follow it more easily. For marketing, it would be worth considering developing the content for YouTube or as a Podcast to get connected with audience in a more cost-effective way. It was also suggested to check some good 360 VR documentary installations for her reference.

AR Projects

Ella, Oscar & Hoo

Ella, Oscar & Hoo is an TV animation series and it is a story of two children, Ella and Oscar, and a cloud character “Hoo”, which is good for learning social emotions. They showed an attractive idea of an AR app for smartphones and tablet. If children can see the poster or book of Ella, Oscar & Hoo through a smartphone or tablet by using the app, they can play a short game to make Ella, Oscar and Hoo smile, which includes some animations.

An expert asked how to monetize the AR app and continually release content for it. The expert suggested a monthly subscription business model for the monetization, and as for continually releasing new content, the team can make use of their animation scenes from the TV series for the AR app, so it wouldn’t be difficult.


An AR project based on their TV series was presented. The TV series is created with Unity, so that they can utilize all visual materials of the TV series to their transmedia contents such as an AR app and video game. The visuals and length of each TV series episode demonstrated a good compatibility and natural fit to be enjoyed with smartphone or tablet. For example, a funny coffee machine in the first episode in TV series can appear into your real office through AR.

Annecy 2018: Award Winners Sun, 17 Jun 2018 19:42:45 +0000 The 42nd Annecy International Animation Film Festival announced the 2018 award winners during the Closing Ceremony on Saturday 16th June.

Feature Films

Cristal for a Feature Film

  • Funan
  • Director: Denis Do

Jury Award / Audience Award

  • The Breadwinner
  • Director: Nora Twomey

Jury Distinction

  • The Wolf House
  • Directors: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña


Cristal for a Short Film

  • Bloeistraat 11
  • Director: Nienke Deutz

Jury Award / Audience Award

  • Weekends
  • Director: Trevor Jimenez

Jury Distinction

  • Biciklisti
  • Director: Veljko Popovic

“Jean-Luc Xiberras” Award for a First Film

  • Egg
  • Director: Martina Scarpelli

TV and Commissioned films

Cristal for a TV Production

  • PIG: The Dam Keeper Poems “Yellow Flower”, “Hello Nice to Meet You”
  • Director: Erick Oh

Jury Award for a TV Series

  • The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking
  • Director: Thomas Sheppard

Jury Award for a TV Series

  • We Bare Bears “Panda’s Art”
  • Director: Daniel Chong

Cristal for a Commissioned Film

  • Leica “Everything in Black and White”
  • Director: Mateus de Paula Santos

Jury Award (Commissioned Film)

  • Mark Lotterman “Happy”
  • Director: Alice Saey


Cristal for a Graduation Film

  • Barbeque
  • Director: Jenny Jokela

Jury Award

  • Inanimate
  • Director: Lucia Bulgheroni

Jury Distinction

  • Hybrids
  • Directors: Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion


Off-Limits Award (tied)

  • Boy Transcoded from Phosphene
  • Director: Rodrigo Faustini

Off-Limits Award (tied)

  • An Excavation of Us
  • Director: Shirley Bruno

Right before Annecy 2018 : special programs not to miss Wed, 06 Jun 2018 20:02:06 +0000 The 42nd Annecy International Animation Festival is quickly approaching and will kick off on 11th June. Annecy again will be filled with various exciting and inspiring programs this year. 220 selected films, world premiers, concert films and unique experiences in virtual reality are all waiting for us.

Here are some highlights of special programs from Annecy 2018.

World premiers

Dilili in Paris

[Opening ceremony on 11th June]

The director Michel Ocelot will present the world premier of his new feature film, Dilili in Paris.

Hotel Transylvania 3

The world-exclusive screening of the non-finalised version of the film is going to be screened on Wednesday 13th June at 6:00 pm in the Bonlieu Grande salle.

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

The screening of the first footage of  the film will be released on Thursday 14th June at 10:30 am in the Bonlieu Grande salle.

The Incredibles 2

The world premier will be on Friday 15th June at 4:00 pm in the Bonlieu Grande salle.

Other screening events can be found from the link below.


Two Keynote speeches are planned this year.

  • 35 Years of Polygon Pictures : Shuzo John Shiota will offer insight into how Polygon Pictures, a successful Japanese digital animation studio, managed to stay afloat in the rough-and-tumble world of computer animation, by continuing to create engaging stories and original imagery.
  • Keynote with 20th Century Fox Animation’s Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird : 20th Century Fox Animation Co-Presidents Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird will have a discussion about the state of the animation industry and its future in creating compelling entertainment through artistry, storytelling and technology.


Work in Progress

WIP Features:

  • Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles
  • Penguin Highway
  • Playmobil – The Movie (working title)
  • Spider-ManTM: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Spies in Disguise
  • The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily
  • The Crossing
  • The Swallows of Kabul


  • Becca’s Bunch
  • hello world!
  • 101 Dalmatian Street
  • Radiant

Annecy celebrates Brazilian animation

The Annecy Festival will have a focus on Brazil. Brazilian animation will be honored throughout the week to highlight the country’s cultural energy, especially from a cinematographic point of view.

Annecy Classics

The festival will pay tributes to timeless classic films that are part of a heritage to us.

  • My Neighbor Totoro : It is the 30th anniversary of the film and will have a screening on Wednesday 13th June at 4:30 pm in the Bonlieu Petite Salle.
  • The Prince of Egypt (a digital restored version)
  • Des Cowboys et des Indiens, le cinéma de Patar et Aubier
  • Millennium Actress

There will be a programme of short films with Instrumentarium (CNC programme), Celebrating 60 Years of Nukufilm Studio and Animation in Armed Forces Movies (in partnership with the ECPAD).

Midnight Specials

If you are night-owls and would love to enjoy the evenings with special screenings, the festival offers you a selection of films for the mature audience to enjoy.

Music and Animated Movies

Music is an inseparable part of animation. Several inspiring music events are held during Annecy.

Early Man: Interview with David Sproxton Sun, 03 Jun 2018 07:22:17 +0000


Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his best friend Hognob as they unite his tribe against an mighty enemy Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

Early Man, Aardman’s latest film, is a prehistoric adventure of a small Stone-age tribe uniting and fighting against an intimidating Bronze-age city to save their home. The film was released in the United Kingdom in January, 2018.

During our visit to FMX 2018 in Stuttgart, Germany, we were excited to interview one of the producers of the film, David Sproxton, who is one of the co-founders of Aardman, having produced films such as Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of FMX 2018. We are happy to share Sproxton’s words with you on his time as a producer of Early Man.

Interview with David Sproxton

Trayton Scott: How did the Early Man film project start?

David Sproxton: Early Man has been the idea of the origin of football, which has been in Nick’s head for many years, and it goes back a long time, probably 7 or 8 years ago. He came up with this idea with cavemen… Cavemen that used to club each other to death, and that’s how they sorted out their conflicts and disputes. So, how did football come about?

We had this crazy idea of the meteor and stuff like that, which is in the prologue that you will see in the film, that encapsulates that early idea, and I think these things start in where you’re in a pub, having a drink, watching something on TV. Nick’s not a football fan at all, he doesn’t watch football much, I don’t watch football much, so it was surprising that he came up with that idea. It’s a fun idea, I think it was the contrast between the very primitive cavemen and this grunting culture that they had, and the idea that somehow along the way, somebody came up with the idea of basically sports, being used for conflict resolution, and it’s actually a better way of being more collaborative than beating each other over the head with clubs.

Trayton Scott: What do you think are the most attractive selling points of the film?

David Sproxton: Well, it’s a comedy, it’s a sort of underdog movie, which is a typical British movie in many ways. It looks very different to a lot of the other stuff that’s out there, that’s for sure, it’s got Nick’s sensibility all over it, and it’s really a story about a clash of cultures: cavemen, our tribe, and the bronze age, which is much more sophisticated. Fundamentally, it’s a slapstick comedy, really. It’s got a really lovely secondary character, Hognob, his hog, who is very appealing, and a little bit like Gromit, sorts out certain problems from his master Dug. It’s just a different genre, a different setting, and although we had films like DreamWorks’ The Croods, it just has a very, very different feel to it. Stop-frame animation obviously has a different feel and sensibility to it as well. Fundamentally, it’s a funny film, for all the family!

Trayton Scott: What is the message or experience that you want to deliver through this film?

David Sproxton: I suppose if you talk about the big messages: People get misunderstood, nations get misunderstood, don’t make assumptions about things. That’s really the big message here. Here’s this bronze age culture, they’re superior to everybody else, and actually it’s about teamwork, it’s about putting together, because what you really got is a tribe who are pretty rubbish. They can’t even hunt rabbits effectively, that’s all they live on, its rabbits, because they’re small, timid animals that they can just capture. So, it’s really a film about teamwork, working hard, putting together, to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts. Theoretically the big takeout in the film is collective thinking, I suppose.

Trayton Scott: From your view as producer, what makes Nick Park and Mark Burton such great storytellers?

David Sproxton: They both got a great comic sensibility. Mark comes from a comedy-writing background. Radio, TV, satire, in particular, he worked on Splitting Image, way, way back. Nick’s got this quite surreal approach to the ideas he comes up with, and strong characters. They get on pretty well.

Mark’s very good, over the years he worked on a number of feature film ideas, and he’s very good on the bigger story arc, and keeping you on track with that. And that’s something we needed on Chicken Run, and we got that with American writer Karey Kirkpatrick. His task was “guardian of the story”, as we called it, because you know, you tend to “Oh, do a gag here, do a gag there”. And as you’re writing, which takes years, and the whole process of feature films is about five years, you can go offtrack if you’re not careful, and Karey’s job is “No no! We’re doing this, because this is the story we’re telling, so we gotta get to there, we can’t go over here”, and Mark’s pretty good about it as well.

So you want somebody that’s what we call a structural writer. A lot of animators are very good on shorter form, or comedy, and character, and little sub-pieces, but you often need to bring somebody who’s a much more structured writer, that brings a 3-act structure, with what needs to happen at these various points, and keeping on track. They both respect each others’ point of view, and they’re aiming to get the film the best they can out of their work.

Trayton Scott: In recent years, stop-motion films are facing a renaissance in the global animation industry, with films such as My Life as a Courgette, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Isle of Dogs, and they are becoming popular topics of conversation. What do you think is the strength of stop-motion animation for storytelling?

David Sproxton: When you’re writing a script and you’re delivering it in a stop-motion way, there’s a tangibility to what you see on the screen. Everything’s is physical, that the audience responds to, and it’s not computer generated. And CGI is fantastic, we can do fantastic stuff with it, but for most people, for example, if I sat at home with a laptop and made a CGI film, firstly, I couldn’t do it, and secondly, It would take me literally decades to do it. Whereas with stop-frame, you could sit at home with a camera and make a film, and I think the audience subconsciously probably recognizes that, that they could do that. What you’ve also got, is quite individual visions. I mean Isle of Dogs had Wes Anderson’s look, that’s his schtick, that’s what he does, everything is very personal. The bigger CG films, the studio films, tends to be more of a committee driving those, and they look a bit more generic. Characters tend to look the same because the little kids want characters with big wide eyes, so they’re tending to come out of the machine, looking the same.

There are a few standout CG ones, but, with the stop-frame stuff, there’s a very individual look to them, although it is like a studio, whether it is Wes Anderson, whether it is us, and My Life as a Courgette, which I thought was a very moving film, beautifully made film, very simply made. It is quite low budget, should’ve done a lot better than it did, because it is an adult film, and a very very moving story, and I thought that is something where the images on the poster look quite naive, but actually the story is very sophisticated and really deeply moving. And that you can do, and it was surprising you can do that without limiting to shorts and everything. But I think it’s that individual vision, that individual look, that you get with stop-frame. Obviously you can do it with CG, but once you get these big films coming out with a hundred million dollars plus being spent on them, they become a little bit of a factory output, becoming a little bit more generic, I think.

Trayton Scott: What were the most challenging aspects of Early Man?

David Sproxton: Well, it’s got this football match at the end, and that’s going to be big, and actually, things like football and ballet are things you really don’t want to do in stop-frame, just because of the physical nature of the models, the speed of action, and all that kind of stuff, and in CG or 2D, you can stretch or squash, you can distort the models to carry the eye for fast action. It’s much harder to do that with stop-frame models.

So one of the big challenges was how are we going to shoot this, and what’s the scale. There is the arena with thirty thousand people in it, and we thought “how on Earth are we going to do that?” So it’s a lot of CG enhancements. That was the practical side. There’s always the challenges that we really have, because we know we can conquer them when they come, the practical production issues, we done enough of them to know the way of doing this. And the big issues on the way tend to be story-related issues, such as “How is this character working? What is this character? What sort of relationship? Is the protagonist strong enough? Is it funny enough?” Those are the harder questions to answer, because we got to dig quite deep and work hard to get those stories to really work. And when Nick came up with it, we thought he was crazy for coming up with a story with football in it, which is not normally done in stop-frame… But we done it, and it works really well.

Trayton Scott: Could you please let us know your favorite part of the movie?

David Sproxton: The hot tub sequence is just hilarious. That little sequence, where Hognob is massaging Nooth’s back, and the absurdity of seeing Hognob play the harp. It’s a classic bit of Nick. When you look at it, it is completely absurd. The way you get to it, is totally rational, but actually what the gag is, is just ridiculous and very funny. That’s a favorite sequence. Very nicely executed, very well timed. Very contained, it’s not a big action sequence, it’s a very contained, simple small-scale scene, that’s actually very very funny.

“Captain Morten & The Spider Queen”: Interview with Kaspar Jancis Mon, 28 May 2018 22:04:19 +0000 Captain Morten & The Spider Queen

(Status: completed)


Morten is a 10-year-old dreamer. His father sails the seas on his ship, The Salamander. Morten is taken care of by Aunt Anna, who is an evil task-master. Morten plays with a toy boat with insects for crew. One day, Morten is magically shrunk and awakes on his toy boat! He is thrilled to be a Captain, but the bugs are as big as he is and they eerily resemble adults from his “real” world. A storm is coming and the toy ship is sinking. Morten must save the ship and return to the real world.

Director: Kaspar Jancis
Script: Kaspar Jancis, Mike Horelick, Paul Risacher, Robin Lyons (Adaptation from Adventure on Salamander by Kaspar Jancis)
Producers: Kerdi Oengo (Nukufilm, Estonia) / Paul Cummins (Telegael, Ireland) / Mark Mertens (Grid Animation, Belgium) / Robin Lyons (Calon, United Kingdom)
Target audience: Family
Technique: Stop-motion

Captain Morten & The Spider Queen is a stop-motion animated film, which tells a story of a boy’s magical adventure. A 10-year-old boy, Morten, loves and admires his father who is the captain of a ship named “The Salamander” ,and he experiences a magical adventure in becoming a brave captain. The well-structured fantasy film will have its world premiere during Animafest Zagreb 2018. The film will also be screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival 2018. We are happy to share his precious words about the film from the director, Kaspar Jancis.

Interview with Kaspar Jancis

Animationweek: How did the film project start?

Kaspar Jancis: At first, the project started as a script for a musical theater play with circus acts. The play was called Morten on the Ship of Fools, which was also the working title for the movie. The theatrical crew was traveling around on the Baltic Sea on an old sail ship, giving shows on different venues both in Finland and Estonia. It was a great experience of building the set and playing the show, in-between vomiting on the stormy sea. At the same time, when I was waiting for a theater project to get funded, my friend publisher insisted me to write a book. After a short hesitation, I did it. It was a children’s book with my illustrations and music by my own band Criminal Elephant. One of the owners of Nukufilm, Andres Mänd, read it and he immediately asked if I would like to make this story as a full-length puppet animation. I agreed to give it a try and after 7 years, I can say that the mission is completed. It’s a good example on how things can lead to unexpected turns. At first, Morten was supposed to be a little side project, but it turned to be a major occupation for me for many years.

Animationweek: The original story, Adventure on Salamander, is also one of your works. How did you come up with the initial idea of the story?

Kaspar Jancis: The initial idea started with an open call for projects participating at Tallinn 2011 Cultural Capital of Europe. The theme of the event was “Seaside stories”. So, I came up with my original seaside story to apply some funding for a traveling theater show. So it’s not an “unexplainable pressure at heart”, just pure practicalities that drove me to the start of this creative adventure.

The subject matter for the story came from my childhood. When I was kid, I was keen on building my own toy boats. I remember that once I put some ants and other insects on the boat and floated it in a little river. I was reading a lot of adventure books, so I was imagining these poor creatures having an adventure of their life, and it never crossed my mind that I took someone’s freedom and projected my own agenda to fulfill my egotistical desires. I found this as a good dramaturgical starting point for the story.

I think the misuse of power is still the main topic of the film, although the storyline has evolved a lot since the very beginning. When I started to write the story, I was looking for ideas I used to like when I was a kid. Becoming small was one of them. I really liked shrinking heroes in stories like Gulliver or Alice etc. My goal was to create an old-school fantasy with a modern twist.

Animationweek: What message did you want to deliver through Captain Morten & The Spider Queen?

Kaspar Jancis: My main message is that you should stay true to your dream despite the individuals who want to steal it from you and despite the temptation to exchange it for golden nails.

Animationweek: We like the idea of the mirroring the characters between Morten’s daily life and Morten’s tiny adventure. How did you come up with the idea?

Kaspar Jancis: The mirroring characters is influenced by classical fantasy stories where the reality and dream refer to each other. I was interested in parallel-world themes that is used quite a lot in children’s literature, so in that sense it’s not a new idea to have alter egos in fantasy and reality. I was following the traditions here, I think if you sincerely believe what you are doing, there is not such a thing as an already-used idea.

I adore Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, it had a big influence on me when I was teenager. I even wrote a few punk rock lyrics about being an insect back in those days. So the subject of a human becoming an insect has been a big inspiration for me through many years. You can find insect characters in all of my movies and I promise to keep that tradition. Don’t ask me why!

Animationweek: Why have you decided to use stop-motion as the film’s medium?

Kaspar Jancis: Mainly because the shrinking story in a strange environment, like the flooded cafe, needed to have some room and light. It needed to look real to make it more exciting. The sets are stylistically realistic to give to the audience the thrill of looking at the world from the insects’ perspective.

If I think of feature animations I like the most, then almost all of them are stop-motion. Stop-motion is the most cinematic medium of animation from my point of view. That’s why many famous filmmakers have chosen stop-motion as the medium for their animation projects. For me, it might be the step closer to trying out the live-action format. But I would like to return to stop-motion any time when it’s possible. It is magic and lot of fun, although it’s an incredibly hard and complicated form of cinema.

Animationweek: Many parts of the film were scenes on the water. How did you shoot these scenes so well? What kind of difficulties were there in making them with stop-motion animation?

Kaspar Jancis: At first, we were trying to stay true to “real stop-motion”, by being dedicated to shooting everything under the camera, but the more we were diving to the material, the more we needed to admit that we are “losers” and we needed to get help from computers. Luckily, the guys from a Belgium company, Grid Animation, were really good and they managed to grasp the look of our real sets. Most people did not notice that we changed all the backgrounds to CG in the fantasy parts. It was impossible to do it the other way.

Our very talented director of photography (DOP) Ragnar Neljandi did an amazing job in figuring out the right lighting to connect the green screen shots with CG water and backgrounds. We tried to give water a slightly less realistic look. It took some time to figure out how “stop-motion-like” it should look. The shooting process was quite difficult; our Irish co-director Henry Nicholson, who was in charge of a studio in Ireland where the shooting of the fantasy part of the film took place, said that this was the most challenging project of his life. And he is not the only one to think like that.

Animationweek: Were there any other unique technical challenges in creating the stop-motion for this film?

Kaspar Jancis: The biggest challenge was definitely connecting the boat’s actions with CG backgrounds and water. The other issues were more common: technical problems connected to the size of the shooting space, construction of the puppets, etc. Nukufilm did not have any experience with fabrication of armature puppets before this film. Now we can say that Nukufilm can produce good silicone puppets with armatures that can last for a feature.

Animationweek: We felt that the lighting gives the visual of the universe a sense of warmth and kindness. We would like to hear about your direction on lighting.

Kaspar Jancis: The lighting was entirely done by our amazing DOP Ragnar Neljandi, who created an outstanding atmosphere for the movie. We clicked really well and I trusted his visions because they were matching mine. Our art director Riho Unt has also a big part in the creation of the visual universe. He and Ragnar had just accomplished internationally a very successful stop-motion short titled The Master. I think a lot of experience and feel from that film came in to Captain Morten.

Animationweek: Could you please let us know about developing the music in the film? What communication did you have with the composer?

Kaspar Jancis: Pierre Yves Drapeau, the composer of our movie, introduced me to a band from Montreal called Fanfare Pourpour. I was immediately thrown into the idea of using their music and style in the film. It had a sort of positive, but not too sweet, energy and twist in it. The sound was something which was unique only for this orchestra. Also, Pierre Yves had always dreamt of working with them. So we decided to co-produce the music with Fanfare Pourpour.

Honestly, it was quite close to not having this happen, because in such big projects like this, there is more than one opinion to deal with. But at the end of the day, we managed to record some new music composed by Pierre Yves and used some songs of the band to create the unique score for our film.

Animationweek: Lastly, could you please let us know your favorite character and scene in the film and why?

Kaspar Jancis: I really can’t tell you who is my favorite, I tend to not have favorites. It is the same with scenes. The film works all together as an ensemble. The scenes and the puppets support each other. The value of one depends on the framework that the others create. They are like people who’s features come out in comparison with their background and reflections from others. In that sense, I try approach it holistically.

A perfect film is when you don’t have any character or scene that cannot be described as your favorite, which obviously means the opposite is true.

Cucaracha’s yellow bike in the film

The life-size copy of the yellow bike

“Isle of Dogs”: Behind the Production with Angela Poschet Sat, 26 May 2018 16:08:10 +0000

Wes Anderson uncovered his latest film Isle of Dogs on 15th February at the Berlin International Film Festival, and it is his second stop-motion animated film after Fantastic Mr. Fox. After it recorded a good box office in America, the topical animation came back to Germany again during the 25th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film on 25th April as a special screening before its official release in Germany (10th May).

Angela Poschet, the production supervisor of Isle of Dogs, had a special lecture about the making of Isle of Dogs on the day before the screening event. After listening to her lecture and watching the film, we interviewed Angela to hear about the development of Isle of Dogs from her professional view as a production supervisor, who managed the production overall since the beginning of the film project.

Interview with Angela Poschet

The role as the production supervisor

Animationweek: Could you please let us know your role as the production supervisor?

Angela Poschet: My role was a production supervisor in both production and working very closely together with producer, Jeremy Dawson, and the line producer, Simon Quinn. I was also involved from the very early beginning. I got a phone call in September of 2014 from Molly Cooper, the consulting producer, asking me about the possibility of maybe shooting in Germany or in eastern Europe, maybe Prague or Poland. And then the second contact was with Jeremy in January 2015, and he asked me if I could do a breakdown of the script, which was still in progress, and the first budget and the first production schedule.

This is what I did in the very early stage in February 2015. I was basically one of the first persons to read the script and get this together. This is what you do as a production supervisor. And then further down the line, based on the production schedule, you then go in to a more detailed shooting schedule, which dictates the set fabrication schedule and puppet fabrication schedule.

My main role is really, then, to follow that up on a weekly base, planning and setting the targets per weeks and months ahead, and monitoring the puppet build to make sure that the puppets and sets arrive on time to the studio floor for shooting to keep the shooting rolling. This is my position then, and also weekly reports need to be produced and sent to the main producer, which was Indian Paintbrush*. So, they can follow up how we are doing, how the progress is. As a production supervisor, you are always working close together with the producers and with the head of each department.

*: A production company owned by Steven Rales, who is supporting many of Wes Anderson’s films. He was the executive producer of The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and one of the producers of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs.

Production Management

Animationweek: You told us that the production team needed to make a lot of complicated puppets, sets, and other many materials within a time limit. What was the key point in managing such a hard production in a tight schedule whilst achieving a very high-quality outcome?

Angela Poschet: I think the key point is, for the puppet and set fabrication, that you work with people who have done this before. The puppet department was run by Andy Gent. He worked before on Fantastic Mr. Fox among many other features. I got to know him when I was working on Frankenweenie, by Tim Burton, and he has a lot of experience in building puppets. Roddy MacDonald, a veteran in the film business,  who was the set construction manager, also worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox and on Frankenweenie, where I got to know him as well.

Animationweek: In the film, there are some 2D parts, such as where there is a live broadcast in the film. How are the 2D sections of the film managed?

Angela Poschet: Everything that we see on screen, was predefined, such as whether it is or contains a 2D animation. We had a little team with Gwenn Germain as an animation director, about ten people, who were doing about five minutes of 2D animation, and this was a little extra department on its own, also based with us.

Of course, sometimes they needed to wait until they get the stop-motion animation from our side,from the studio floor, because sometimes what we saw on screen was done before as a stop motion.

Technical Aspects

Animationweek: What did the animation team take care of when they animated the dog puppets?

Angela Poschet: Wes Anderson prepared the director of animation, Mark Waring, and the animators by screening 60s-era films of Akira Kurosawa, because Wes wanted the animators to be influenced by their style and the reserved approach to performances for the humans.

There were also lots of dogs running around in the studio, which have been studied by the animators. The dogs in the movie behaved like dogs, they have fleas and scratch themselves and bare their teeth.

I can also mention for example, that Jupiter, a dog in the film, is based on Charles Laughton, so Wes had a human in mind when designing and directing him. I can imagine that he was briefing the animators to have certain skills and being inspired by real humans, to such things as what kind of characteristic quirks the dogs have.

Animationweek: How did the skin material of human puppets and the fur of the dog puppets looked so lifelike?

Angela Poschet: For the human puppets’ face, the artists used silicone replacement skin to create a wider tonal range than what’s been seen in puppet faces before. It is a semi-translucent skin which works really well when you want to show freckles or bruises, which were hand-painted. The fur on the dogs is harvested alpaca and merino wool which is used to manufacture teddy bears.

Animationweek: In terms of making puppets, sets and all materials for the film, what was the most challenging or difficult part?

Angela Poschet: I think the challenging part was making the replacement faces for the humans because they were all handmade and hand-painted. We didn’t use a 3D printer. It is quite challenging when you have a character with freckles, with different replacement faces, up to 20, 30 and even more for some characters, and you have to duplicate the puppets for example three times, and then you have to paint all the faces.

I also think that another challenge was making armatures for the dogs that can do everything: walk, sit down, lie down, etc., with just one armature. Having a dog that can lie down as a puppet is quite challenging to achieve with just one armature without having an extra dog which is in a lying pose.

Animationweek: You said in the lecture that the production team created many effects like smoke, fire, rain, water and so on via stop-motion with handmade materials, and it was a big challenge.

Angela Poschet: Yes. For example, clingfilm was used for water, shades of yellow gels have been cut to a fire shape to create a fire effect. We had clouds as a flight trail, which was very cartoony, that was done with cotton wool. Of course, there might be some stuff which is being added in post-production, but everything is based on a real asset being built and shot in front of the camera, which then the VFX department took and use it for building and finalizing a shot in compositing.

Currently, everyone tends to do effects in post-production and not do it in camera, but Wes was insisting to do all effects in stop-motion and it took months of animation testing to find out which material was the best to use for water, clouds, rain and fire. We had always two or three units running in parallel to our shooting, where we tested some different special effects and how it worked out, and we gave this to the post-production team, and they put it in and edit it into the shot. We had, during peak time, 40 shooting units. Out of the 40 shooting units, three to four testing units and, the animation supervisor Tobias Fouracre was in charge of testing all the effects with a team of assistant animators.

Animationweek: Was there anything different or unique in the production of Isle of Dogs, compared to other stop motion animations you worked for?

Angela Poschet: I think what was unique was really the amount of sets and the amount of puppets we needed to produce. I’m not saying normally, but when you write a script for a stop motion, I think normally you might have 100 cast of different characters, and maybe 80 sets.

Here, we had 500 puppets and 400 audience puppets, and then we had 240 sets, so that was really challenging to see this amount of assets, which need to be built in a very tight shooting schedule to deliver, week-wise, up to nine puppets per week. This is quite amazing, considering the timeline.

Closing Remarks

Animationweek: What is your favorite part of the film?

Angela Poschet: The problem is, for me, I’ve seen the finished movie the first time at the premiere in the Berlin International Film Festival, and I was very nervous, so I really couldn’t watch it, in a way. Then the second time, I was watching it with the team in London a week later, and I was still watching it, and thinking:

“All right, this is this scene, this is that scene, and we had this discussion, and we had that problem”, so I’m not really leaning back yet. At the screening event yesterday, I enjoyed the movie for the first time!

Everything looks very good in itself. It’s a bit hard for me to select a favorite part of the film. Of course, I like the scenes where Chief is talking and telling his story about his formula. I also like when they’re gossiping around. I prefer the scenes where the Hero Pack Dogs are together. I can’t pick a specific scene right now.

Animationweek: What was the most special time for you in the Isle of Dogs project?

Angela Poschet: I think it is always in the beginning of a project, reading the script the first time, then analyzing the script, then breaking it down and figuring out the amount of assets that need to be built, producing the asset fabrication schedule, presenting this to the producer the first time. This is, really, the most interesting thing, and then planning out the complete schedule on the set and puppet fabrication in detail. Once this is done, then it’s “only” monitoring and following the fabrication progress up – week-by-week.

I always like being involved from the very beginning, and setting up everything for the production. This is the main thing, and it is always good fun to do this.

I really enjoyed working on Isle of Dogs with such a fantastic team!

“Der Traumzauberbaum” Mon, 14 May 2018 14:36:25 +0000 Der Traumzauberbaum

(Status: in development)


In a magical forest, there stands a tree that grows dreams as its leaves. Two lovable wood sprites live in harmony in the treetop, until a cootie arrives and turns everything upside down. The tree’s inhabitants will need to team up to prevent a catastrophe and save the dreams.

Der Traumzauberbaum (The Magical Dream-Tree)
Director: Theresa Strozyk
Authors: Monika Ehrhardt-Lakomy (Adaptation from Der Traumzauberbaum by Monika Ehrhardt-Lakomy)
Producer: Anna Guddat (Schiwago Film GmbH, Germany)
Format: Feature 70’
Target audience: Family Entertainment
Technique: 3D digital

Animationweek attended Animation Production Day (a part of The Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film 2018) this year for the first time. 48 animation projects were selected and over 700 pre-planned, one-to-one meetings were conducted to find co-production partners, distributors, and broadcasters.

I was able to meet an aspiring film project Der Traumzauberbaum and hear about it from the producer, Anna Guddat and the director, Theresa Strozyk.

Der Traumzauberbaum is a film project based on very famous narrative songs of the same name in Germany, which were released in 1981. Since then, the story has been catching the hearts of a lot of children and their parents for a long time, not only in Germany but also in other European countries, such as Switzerland, Austria and Poland. The LP/CD of the narrative songs has sold over five million copies in Europe. Live stage shows based on the songs are constantly sold out. Lots of kindergartens and primary schools are named after Der Traumzauberbaum characters.

Interview with Anna Guddat and Theresa Strozyk

Hideki Nagaishi: How did the project start?

Anna Guddat: Like a gift from the heavens, the author of the original, Moni Lakomy, gave us the rights to put her work on the big screen. Since Theresa and I were both raised with these beautiful songs, we had easy access to this content. We are happy and proud to work on this cute, little universe of the magical tree and its inhabitants, and we enjoy every moment we spend on Der Traumzauberbaum.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know about the story and main characters of the original songs, briefly?

Theresa Strozyk: The original story of the record features two wood spirits as the main characters who take care of the leaves of the tree, which are the dreams. They have a magical tuning fork that can activate the leaves and make the dreams fly to their receiver, the children. Each leaf contains a song, and each song tells an individual story, featuring many funny characters.

The script needs to integrate the well-known songs into the story of the two wood spirits. The original story already held the passage of the two wood spirits angering the grumpy cloud shepherd, who is responsible for the rain and the little river. Consequently, the magical tree is running out of water and once it runs out, all its colorful leaves – the dreams – will dry up and turn into nightmares. The two wood spirits have to soothe the cloud shepherd to get the rain back and save the magical tree. Respecting nature and the environment are themes which are becoming more and more prominent these days.

Hideki Nagaishi: Will the film follow the original story faithfully, or will some original elements be added to the film?

Anna Guddat: The original creators of Der Traumzauberbaum produced as of now four sequels, and within the sequels and the live stage performances, a new heroine was added to the story: Agga Knack, the wild dream cootie, which is massively popular with the audience. Since she wasn’t part of the original story of 1981, we wished to add her to the script, as she brings in great potential as an antagonist. This influenced the entire dramatic composition of the original story.

Hideki Nagaishi: How are you developing the visuals for the film?

Theresa Strozyk: We can start from scratch, because the story of Der Traumzauberbaum has never been featured in a children’s book or any movie. We don’t have to consider any older designs for our characters. There is the very well-known cover of the record, and we will take that into consideration, but apart from that, there are no visuals that we have to follow, so we can create a unique world for our movie.

We would like to combine 2D and 3D animation. The tree and the wood spirits will be done in 3D animation; we are very excited to create the inside of the treetop, the living space of the two wood spirits. And of course, creating the wood spirits will be a lot of fun. The songs will be showing a different artistic style, as we are planning to use 2D techniques to make the dreamworld stand out.

Hideki Nagaishi: What is the unique selling point of the project?

Anna Guddat: That is for sure the quality of the songs, which are, by now, handed over to the third generation. Not only by composition, but also by the quality of the lyrics. They prove that, by still being played in kindergartens and kids spaces throughout Germany, they didn’t lose a single bit of charm within the past 40 years!

Theresa Strozyk: I think the idea that there is a magical tree that grows dreams is very poetic and very unique. Its a surprise that it has not already been done before in an animated movie. And of course, animation and music are always a winning combination.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know what stage your project is at now? And what kind of support, such as co-production partner or distributor, are you looking for?

Anna Guddat: We are in the script development. We guess we need one more draft before being able to access development funding. We would like to find regional partners for character and set design. Later, we are aiming to access media funding to finance the teaser for marketing and financing reasons. We already have our distributor attached, and we are currently negotiating with other partners from the industry.

Hideki Nagaishi: Could you please let us know the attractiveness of APD from your experience?

Anna Guddat: APD is a great experience, because access to the players of the industry is so efficient. Also, coming from live action, I am overwhelmed by the very smooth atmosphere within this convention. We fully enjoy participating at APD!

Final Space: an Epic Sci-Fi Comedy Wed, 09 May 2018 17:20:13 +0000

Final Space, a new sci-fi comedy that started airing in North America in February, will come to Germany on 15th May. The show was created by independent filmmaker Olan Rogers, and is based on the YouTube series Gary Space, also created by Olan. The series was co-developed with David Sachs. Conan O’Brien is participating as one of executive producers and voice actors. His company, Conaco, is listed as a production company.

Final Space is a new comedy about the adventures of Gary, a space-faring commander (but actually, he is a prisoner) and his sidekick Mooncake, a very cute alien with the ability to destroy planets. Together, along with many other characters they will meet, they will unravel the mystery of the end of the universe.

Creator Olan Rogers and actor Coty Galloway (voice actor of Avocato) visited the 25th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film, one of the biggest animation festivals in the world. The Animationweek editorial team could have the precious opportunity to hear behind the story of the hot new animated series. I’m excited to share their words with you.

Left: Olan Rogers; Right: Coty Galloway

Interview with Olan Rogers and Coty Galloway

Trayton Scott: Where did the initial idea of the show come from?

Olan Rogers: It started off as a proof-of-concept on YouTube, and essentially we worked on it for about 5 months. Before that, the inception of the idea was another little YouTube series called Gary Space, and that was back in 2010. Essentially, from that proof-of-concept, we brought on a producing partner Conaco, which was Conan O’Brien’s company, and they essentially came on as those producing partners, and we were able to come up with a pitch and take it out, and the rest is history.

Trayton Scott: How did Conan O’Brien get involved with the show?

Olan Rogers: Apparently, I guess an intern or one of his people that worked at his company was just up really late at night, Kramer I believe, and he saw Final Space. He sent an email to Conan’s 2 executive producers that oversee a lot of original content, and apparently this guy just never talks, so it was a rare occurrence that he would even send an email, so they’re like: “Oh, I guess we’ll have to check this out.” The moment they checked it out, it was when they came on board.

Trayton Scott: How did you gather the initial crew for the show?

Olan Rogers: The cast side of it was pretty fluid. It was the moment we got Fred Armisen, who was on Portlandia and Saturday Night Live, everybody else just came on board. We put out what was essentially an offer, and they accepted it. The crew was gathered from a lot of BoJack Horsemen storyboarders and directors, just because it is done under the same company named ShadowMachine, so it was just through them, that they pulled all their talent that works with them.

Coty Galloway: I’ll go on record saying this: David Sachs and Olan Rogers did an excellent job creating these amazing scripts, so I think the excellent cast that came on and read these great scripts, had said: “Well, I got to be attached to that in some way”. That’s my theory.

Thinking as an actor, how other actors may think, would be that when you see these amazing things, you gotta be a part of it somehow. I really think that they read something spectacular, and the scripts are really good, if you get the chance to read it, I hope you can, because it is a blessing.

Trayton Scott: How was the original pilot on YouTube put together?

Olan Rogers: A digital company, New Form, is funding a lot of online creators’ passion projects, and they gave me about $20,000, which was the smallest amount, out of the pool that they gave money to all the creators, because they didn’t think animation was going to do anything for them. We ended up taking that budget and basically farming it out to this Australian animation company called Studio Joho, and it is these two Australian guys, who are so talented, but they had never done anything like this. It took a little bit of telling them exactly what I wanted to do. After we did that, they immediately got it and they knocked it out of the park.

Trayton Scott: You have made some original YouTube shorts, what was it like transitioning to working in a TV series?

Coty Galloway: Amazing! I started off as an actor in the YouTube realm. It’s a great avenue, for creating things, and Olan being a major creator in the field of it, it’s definitely a bigger-picture type mindset. You start things, you’re having fun, you’re creating your own things, you start to see the bigger picture, you want the growth and the progression, it’s all work. There’s not a lot of money in that thing, but you gain knowledge and wisdom in how to do things, how to fail, how to get up. Especially as an actor, you see a lot of different things, and now I’ve been fortunate enough to grow and progress and grow in my career, seeing the TV side of everything. I learned a ton, so I’m very blessed to get to work with a guy like Olan Rogers.

Olan Rogers: Well I did online for a decade or more. That’s always been the game plan, to get off online into TV. With YouTube, you have nobody giving you notes, you don’t really have to impress anybody except for yourself. With TV, you have executives, you have the network, you have the company… It’s a whole production, and it’s a monster, so in that aspect, it’s more compromised. You’re compromising a little bit here and there to basically take everybody’s insight.

Coty Galloway: Coming from YouTube to now being on TNT comedy, 11pm, May 15th, in Germany! It’s quite amazing, right?

Trayton Scott: What is the process in coming up with the gags in the show?

Olan Rogers: Usually when we’re writing, the best joke wins. A lot of it is inspiration from movies, whatever makes us laugh, and we put a gag or a spin on that. it essentially just what makes us laugh.

Coty Galloway: Like Mooncake!

Trayton Scott: I think the series had great action sequences. Who is/are the key people behind the action sequences?

Olan Rogers: First off, that started off in the writing phase, so we had to essentially write what those action scenes were, and from there, the storyboarders would take it and put their spin on it, and the directors would do a pass, and then we would send it out to Jam Filled, and they would animate the thing. It’s so many steps, not just one person did just the action scenes, it was probably 100 more people doing each action scene.

Trayton Scott: Do you have any advice you would like to give to creators who wishes to create an animated series?

Olan Rogers: It’s essentially persistence, and making what you always wanted to see. For Final Space, it was something that I always wanted to see, which was this early Toonami or Dragon Ball Z reboot. Making something that had a continuous story and you saw these characters grow, but had genuine emotion, and heart, and action, and comedy and drama. I think that doesn’t need to be every cartoon. you can have these absurd, hilarious cartoons, you can have anime, and all that stuff. That’s the beauty of animation, it’s as big as your imagination. Just dream big and go for it!

Coty Galloway: Never give up. Persistence outweighs resistance.