A Rabbit’s Journey to a Mystical Realm
The new Danish-swedish Cg-animated movie, Beyond Beyond, mixes beautiful 3-D images with an unusual subject matter. by Ramin Zahed
The new Danish/Swedish CG-animated movie, Beyond Beyond, mixes beautiful 3-D images with an unusual subject. by Ramin Zahed
In 2011, Danish director Esben Toft Jacobsen made a splash on the international animation scene with his first feature, The Great Bear. He is once again in the spotlight this year with the new feature Beyond Beyond, which will be showcased at the Berlin Film Festival’s Generation Kplus section in February and at Cartoon Movie in France in March.
Described as “a story about wanting the impossible,” Beyond Beyond — billed as the first stereoscopic 3-D film produced in Sweden — follows the adventures of a little rabbit called Johan, who sets out on an incredible and quite mystical journey. One day, when his father leaves their boat for provisions, Johan receives a distress call on the radio that reveals a clue about his missing mother’s whereabouts. And thus begins his voyage to the Kingdom of the Feather King.
As Jacobsen tells us via email interview, he and scriptwriter Jannik Tai Mosholt decided to brainstorm and come up with ideas about their next venture. “I had drawn a rabbit kid and his dad, and the story grew out of that drawing. They were having a great time in the picture, but you automatically asked yourself where the mother was. It was also very clear who Johan, the main character, was, already from the first simple sketches. He is a strong character and he made the story very joyful to work with.”
The director, who counts Yuri Norstein, Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren, Hayao Miyazaki, David O’Reilly, Martin De Thurah, Brad Bird and Neil Gaiman among his sources of inspiration, says working with a small team was one of the main challenges of this latest film. “Small teams are great, because I got to know everyone and everyone felt personally invested in the movie,” he says. “The challenge in working on a small scale is that almost everything has to be right the first time. There is very little room for changes. At the same time, we kept working on the story very far into production. The team was great about adapting to changes and unknown challenges, but the planning was tough.”
Jacobsen also used animal characters in his short projects, such as Having a Brother. He says he especially enjoys drawing animals that are fragile, energetic and appealing at the same time. “When I made the first drawing of Johan and his dad, I knew rabbits were the right choice,” he says. “Animals are great to work with. If you do humans, you spend so much energy on getting the design and animation not to look weird. Animals give you much more freedom. You end up spending your time more on the fun parts. If you have a scene with a human who goes to the dentist, you are pretty locked, but if you create a scene with a lion that goes to the dentist, it is a lot more fun to work with.”
The film’s producer, Petter Lindblad, who also worked on Jacobsen’s The Great Bear, says: “We’re telling a story about a subject that can be difficult for children to deal with and is not often brought up, and that’s missing someone that they can no longer be together with. In our film, our main character, Johan, misses his mother, and we can all relate to the emotion of missing someone close, like a grandparent who is not with us any more, divorced parents not living close enough to visit, etc.”
Lindblad says the goal was to create an adventure/drama that used humor in a subtle and original way. “It’s not the usual funny-haha approach we see in other films for children,” he says. “For me, it feels like we’re telling a story for children more on their premises, in a serious but exciting, fun and joyous way.”
According to the producer, Beyond Beyond took about three years to make, from the presentation of the first idea from the director and the writer to final de- livery. He says the film, which was made for about 2.7 million euros (about $3.7 million), has been the speediest feature-film production of his career. “They were able to hit the right tone and ambition with this project from day one, and that made it an ideal work experience,” Lindblad says.
The CG animation was produced in Maya. The pipeline also included Nuke 7 for compositing, V-Ray 2.0 and Royal Render for rendering. The film’s visual effects were created using Maya, RealFlow and Phoenix FD.
It’s appropriate that the much-anticipated film is one of Cartoon Movie’s key premieres at this year’s event, as the financing for the film project was aided by the annual European meetup. As the producer explains: “For us, the participation in Cartoon Movie in the past two years was very helpful for the additional financing needed from outside our own territories, securing pre-sales up front and also building our network with distributors and broadcasters that were interested at an early stage. (Our first presentation was in 2012, followed by commitments after 2013.) Now we have the possibility to come back and show everyone the finished film, to follow up with previous contacts, show it to new potential buyers and close some more deals for
Beyond Beyond will premiere April 10 in Denmark, followed by releases in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and South Korea. The German free-TV rights have been ac
quired by Super RTL.