Grow­ing Pains

Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor To­rill Kove tells us a few things about her charm­ing new an­i­mated fea­ture, Ho­cus Pocus, Alfie Atkins. by Ramin Za­hed

Animation Magazine - - Content -

Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor To­rill Kove tells us a few things about her charm­ing new an­i­mated fea­ture, Ho­cus Pocus, Alfie Atkins. by Ramin Za­hed

An imag­i­na­tive young boy who loves magic tricks and dreams of owning a pet terrier learns a few life lessons in t he charm­ing 2-D-an­i­mated Nor­we­gian fea­ture Ho­cus Pocus, Alfie Atkins. The movie, which opened in Nor­way last sum­mer, is one of sev­eral hot Euro­pean ti­tles screen­ing this year at Car­toon Movie. The film’s di­rec­tor is To­rill Kove, who is best known for her 2006 Os­car-win­ning short The Dan­ish Poet, as well as her Os­car-nom­i­nated 2004 short My Grand­mother Ironed the King’s Shirts.

Kove, who is based in Oslo, was kind enough to an­swer a few ques­tions about her most-re­cent project via email. She says she be­came in­ter­ested in the Alfie Atkins project when pro­ducer Kristin Ulseth from Maipo told her about the script, which was based on the pop­u­lar book se­ries by Gu­nilla Bergstrøm. “I thought the script was very good and it’s based on a such a won­der­ful book se­ries,” says Kove. “It also seemed like a re­ally good op­por­tu­nity to work with Nor­we­gian and Scan­di­na­vian an­i­ma­tion pro­fes­sion­als.”

The film’s an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion, which was mostly done in China, took about 2½ years and cost about $4 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to Kove, the an­i­ma­tion was hand drawn on pa­per and scanned and col­ored digitally, but the stu­dio was very tightlipped about what soft­ware it used.

One of the tough­est as­pects of the cre­ation of the film was the fact that the pro­duc­tion was di­vided be­tween the pro­duc­ers in Nor­way and the an­i­ma­tion stu­dio in China, while Kove her­self lived in Mon­treal dur­ing half the pro­duc­tion. “It seemed like some­one around the world was al­ways work­ing on it,” she says. “And of course, it’s no pic­nic to di­rect a first fea­ture. It is chal­leng­ing be­cause there are so many new skills re­quired and not much time to learn. And dead­lines are pretty firm. Adapt­ing the book style to film was also a tricky code to crack. It’s a bit daunt­ing to work with a uni­verse that’s so well known.”

Look­ing back, though, Kove says it’s all been worth it. “I think Ho­cus Pocus, Alfie Atkins has a very lovely hu­man­ity to it,” she says. “That trait is very typ­i­cal of Gu­nilla Bergstrøm’s books. I think it’s also, strangely enough, quite un­usual these days to have a main char­ac­ter that is just a reg­u­lar boy — not an an­i­mal, not some­one from the fu­ture, no mag­i­cal pow­ers and not an or­phan (al­though Alfie’s mom is kind of ab­sent). Vis­ually, too, I think it looks quite unique. It’s in­spired by the books, so it has the same char­ac­ter­is­tics of Bergstrøm’s style.”

When asked to com­pare di­rect­ing a big fea­ture to a smaller an­i­mated short, Kove says it’s like com­par­ing ap­ples to or­anges and that she loves both for­mats for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. “Per­haps the big­gest dif­fer­ence is be­tween di­rect­ing some­thing based on a script I have also writ­ten, ver­sus some­thing con­ceived by some­one else,” she says. “They are very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. Both good and in­ter­est­ing, but chal­leng­ing in dif­fer­ent ways.”

So how does she feel about the big an­i­ma­tion boom we are see­ing all over the globe? She re­sponds, “There is no rea­son why an­i­ma­tion shouldn’t get bet­ter and bet­ter. More peo­ple are do­ing it, and there are lots of tal­ented peo­ple in­ter­ested. But I wish there was more fund­ing for in­de­pen­dent fea­tures.”

Kove, who is putting the fin­ish­ing touches on a new 2-D short called Me and My Moul- ton (co-pro­duced by Canada’s NFB and Nor­way’s Mikro­film), be­lieves in an­i­ma­tors who per­se­vere and con­tinue to work in their own per­sonal and unique styles. She names Pjotr Sape­gin, Paul Driessen, Janet Perl­man, Don Hertzfeldt and Joanna Pri­est­ley as a few of her fa­vorites. “There are many more,” she says. “My point is that I ad­mire and look up to peo­ple who per­se­vere, an­i­ma­tors who have de­vel­oped a rec­og­niz­able style, and who are try­ing to say some­thing with it.”

She is also quite op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of 2-D an­i­ma­tion. “I think be­cause draw­ing is a pretty pri­mal ac­tiv­ity, just like play­ing mu­sic and writ­ing, there will al­ways be room for 2-D an­i­ma­tion. That’s why I am, per­haps wrongly, not so con­cerned about the fu­ture of 2-D an­i­ma­tion. I think peo­ple will just keep do­ing it. Af­ter all, draw­ing is a very ex­pres­sive art form, and I don’t think it’s go­ing away.”

Not as long as we have gifted artists like Kove to brighten the path.

To­rill Kove

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