Impromptu and Improvised
Ale Abreu animated
Bone idea at a time, creating a popular political powerhouse of a movie that has a good shot at an Oscar nomination. By Tom McLean.
oy & the World is the kind of feature that proves some ideas can only spring to life via the wide-open creative canvas of animation.
The brainchild of Brazilian animator Ale Abreu, Boy & the World debuted at the 2013 Ottawa International Animation Festival, and has since racked up such impressive honors as the Annecy festival’s Cristal Award and Audience Award in 2014. Now it’s come to the United States for a limited theatrical release via GKIDS and is in serious contention for an Oscar nomination.
Boy & the World tells the story of a boy who sets out from his small village home and searches for his father in a world that is at times soul-crushingly cruel and at others magical beyond words.
Abreu wrote, animated and edited the non-dialogue film mostly himself, often creating the film on the fly.
Starts with a Sketch Interviewed via email through a translator, Abreu says the project began when he was working on Canto Latino, an animated documentary project exploring the history of Latin America through its protest songs. He was flipping through his sketchbook and saw a drawing that stood out in an unusual way.
“What attracted me, more than the actual character, was the simple, rough and urgent way I’d drawn him,” says Abreu. “The feeling I had was that the boy in the drawing was waving at me, calling me to discover his story.”
Abreu left the documentary and began chasing this new vision, a process he describes as like working a jigsaw puzzle.
“I made the film practically without a script, working directly through animatics, based on sensations I had, which I would then transform into story fragments,” he says. “I then tried to connect these fragments in search of some greater meaning. In this manner, I began discovering characters and their connections.”
A key element Boy & the World retained from Canto Latino was a political point of view. “I think that this spirit of protest permeated the making of Boy & the World up until a certain point, and then the story began to take on a more universal aspect,” says Abreu. “But it’s a story of the oppressed. A boy looks for his father in a globalized world, which drags people along like objects. This child could be from any country in the world where poverty is endemic.”
An Organic Look Abreu says 90 percent of the animation was done at his small studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil,
Moomins on the Riviera
Moomin were actually created mostly for the British market and published by the British Associated Newspapers from about 1954 to 1975. The most successful Finnish comics ever published, Moomin ran in more than 40 countries, across 120 papers with about 20 million daily readers at the height of its popularity.
From the Source Moomins on the Riviera — a hand-drawn feature — is based on one of the original comic strips and follows the Moomins as they, along with Little My and Snorkmaiden, have a journey across the sea that leads the family to the Riviera, where their loyalty to one another is put to the test. As Snorkmaiden gains the attentions of a playboy in the south of France, Moomin must contend with his own insecurities.
This was the first feature film based on Moomin and it was first released in October 2014 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of its creator. The movie did well enough that there have been conversations about possibly making another film based on the comic strips, says Hemila.
The Classic Look Along with the family and estate of Jansson, the filmmakers worked to maintain the charming, hippo-like characters in their original form — which with their soft lines and watercolor palette seem a gentle way to make to make so many statements and observations about culture. There was no thought given to radically changing the look.
“We made a proposal for a film that stayed true to the look and ideas that were in the comic strips, and this was important to keep the style that was established in the beginning,” says Hemila.
“It was important for the writing to be like the writing in the comics, too, because if you’d read them, as I did, you’d want to have that same feeling in the dialogue,” says Harju. “It’s part of what I loved about them growing up.”
Hemila and Harju also agree on one of the series; core values: tolerance.
“When you take them out of their own place and they are around other people from different places, you see them struggle with it,” says Harju.
“I think (tolerance) is an essential message in Tove Jansson’s texts and even more relevant now again than some years ago,” says Hemila. [
Formed in 2013 from established companies Mike Young Productions and Moonscoop, Splash Entertainment has decades of animation experience that it is finally bringing to the theatrical arena with the Jan. 15 release of Norm of the North.
“We hope that if it’s a success for us — for all the partners — that we’ll be aboard to do others,” says producer Nicolas Atlan. “Maybe one every two or three years.”
The movie is about a polar bear named Norm who heads to New York City with his three lemming pals to try to stop a developer from building condos in his arctic home. Directed by Trevor Wall and written by Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott, Norm of the North features the voices of Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Gabriel Iglesias, Loretta Devine, Michael McElhatton, Colm Meaney and Bill Nighy.
Produced for a little more than $20 million, Altan says he sees space in the market for this kind of movie. “There is a good business model here,” he says. “The experience we have in
partner Telegael in Ireland.
Doing It Live Splash worked extensively on the animatic, incorporating video reference into the planning of every scene. “It’s not motion capture; it’s real live-action reference,” says Atlan. “We had real people playing each part — even on the dance scenes, we had a choreographer create the dance scenes and hired very good professional dancers.”
The reference went to Assemblage in Mumbai, India, for the animation work. Some of the post-production was done at Telegael, but most of it was done in Los Angeles, Atlan says.
Splash’s extensive experience working on television animation made the transition to working on a feature project relatively easy.
“On a movie, you’re pushing as far as you can the comedy and I think on a TV series you’re pressed by time because you’re doing 26 half hours in 18 months, so sometimes you don’t have time to push as far as you want the story or the animatic,” says Atlan. “We produced ( Norm) in a bit more than two years. We knew the animatic was going to be our main tool, so we really tried to push it as much as we can.”
The step into the animated feature market is a big one for Splash, Atlan says. “I hope it will bring our company to the next level. We are very happy about it.” [