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

Animation Magazine - - Content -

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

the movie.”

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.

Lit­tle rab­bit Jo­han searches for his mother in the land of the Feather King. Esben Toft Ja­cob­sen Pet­ter Lind­blad

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