Fer­di­nand’s Tri­umphant Jour­ney

Animation Magazine - - Features -

How di­rec­tor Car­los Sal­danha and his team at Blue Sky de­liv­ered a lovely CG-an­i­mated movie with a pow­er­ful mes­sage in­spired by the clas­sic chil­dren’s book. By Ramin Za­hed

danha and Forte point out that the deeply lay­ered mes­sages of the prop­erty al­lowed them to ex­pand the sto­ry­line in a log­i­cal fash­ion. “The more re­search we did, the more it be­came ob­vi­ous to us that peo­ple can in­ter­pret the story in so many dif­fer­ent ways,” notes Sal­danha. “Our story has a deeper mean­ing in the dif­fi­cult world that we all live in to­day. The other char­ac­ters that we added to the movie also share the same is­sues as Fer­di­nand.”

A Span­ish So­journ As both the book and the movie are set in col­or­ful and his­toric places in Spain, Sal­danha and his team made a spe­cial trip to the coun­try to seek vis­ual in­spi­ra­tion and au­then­tic back­drops for their project. “We were in­spired by the beauty of the land­scapes and unique ar­chi­tec­ture of Spain,” says the di­rec­tor. “The color pal­ette of the movie has a lot of earth tones to it, and is very dif­fer­ent from the trop­i­cal col­ors that we used in the Rio movies. We took in the mag­nif­i­cent ar­chi­tec­ture of some of the cities and trav­eled south to the lovely re­gion of An­dalu­sia.”

The moun­tain­top city of Ronda in Spain’s Málaga prov­ince in­spired the lo­ca­tion for the farm where Fer­di­nand finds hap­pi­ness with the young girl Mina and her fa­ther. “We wanted the art to re­flect the beauty of this world,” ex­plains Sal­danha. “We wanted the lo­ca­tions to ex­press the pos­si­bil­i­ties of an an­i­mated movie, but also be truth­ful to the art, his­tory and cul­ture of Spain.” A Mar­riage of Art and Tech­nol­ogy Thanks to the lat­est ad­vance­ments in CG tech­nol­ogy, the artists and tech­ni­cal teams at Blue Sky were able to de­liver an­i­ma­tion that is metic­u­lous in its at­ten­tion to de­tail — from each blade of grass in the field, to the tex­ture of a mata­dor’s cape, to the play of light and shadow in the land­scape of An­dalu­sia.

“Ev­ery year, we de­velop new ver­sions of the pro­pri­etary ren­der­ing soft­ware at Blue Sky [called CGI Stu­dio],” ex­plains Sal­danha. “We made the best use of the tech­nol­ogy to make a big artis­tic im­pres­sion. Fer­di­nand is not a movie with huge spe­cial ef­fects. Our goal was to best use the tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate the right look that helps serve the art di­rec­tion and the light­ing. Ev­ery­thing has been ray-traced metic­u­lously, and it looks beau­ti­ful. The team suc­ceeded in solv­ing com­plex chal­lenges in the de­pic­tion of the crowd scenes as well. They were able to pull it off in a way in a very sub­tle way, so that the tech­nol­ogy isn’t overtly ob­vi­ous on the screen.”

Fer­di­nand is Blue Sky Stu­dios’ 12th an­i­mated fea­ture. It’s the stu­dio’s sev­enth fea­ture di­rected or co-di­rected by Car­los Sal­danha. First pub­lished in 1936, The Story of Fer­di­nand writ­ten by Munro Leaf and il­lus­trated by Robert Law­son has been trans­lated into more than 60 lan­guages and sold mil­lions of copies world­wide. Leaf wrote the story on a whim in an af­ter­noon in 1935, mostly to pro­vide his friend Law­son with a project to show­case his tal­ents. A first-edi­tion copy of the The Story of Fer­di­nand sold for $16,500 in 2014. The story was adapted by Walt Dis­ney as a short an­i­mated film ti­tled Fer­di­nand the Bull in 1938. Di­rected by Dick Rickard, Fer­di­nand the Bull won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Sub­ject Car­toon.

A Boy­hood Mem­ory The idea for the story had been ges­tat­ing a long time: As a boy, Ren­ner vis­ited fam­ily friends who had a farm near Mon­tauban in south­ern France. “Once, I was sit­ting by an in­cu­ba­tor and the chicks were about to hatch,” he re­calls. “My fa­ther told me, ‘If you stay here, the chick­ens will see you when they hatch. They’ll think you’re their mother and you will have to take care of them.’ I went away im­me­di­ately, be­cause I was too scared to be a sin­gle mom at six.”

The idea that chicks might re­gard him or some other in­ap­pro­pri­ate crea­ture as their mother puz­zled Ren­ner. “For years, I won­dered how can this hap­pen,” he con­tin­ues. “What if they see a dog or a fox? When I was a teenager, I started to make some draw­ings about the fox with the chick­ens. I al­ways told my­self, I will tell this story some day. Af­ter I fin­ished Ernest & Ce­les­tine,

where the sto­ries un­fold. “We re­ally wanted the film to have a wa­ter­color ef­fect. Wa­ter­color is a tech­nique you of­ten use when you sketch, so there’s a very spon­ta­neous feel­ing to it, which is why I wanted to add it,” Ren­ner says. “We cheated a lit­tle be­cause we did it on com­put­ers, so it’s not as spon­ta­neous, but it has a feel­ing of spon­tane­ity. We tried to in­cor­po­rate wa­ter­color stains here and there we couldn’t con­trol, and we’re pretty happy with the re­sult. We were lucky to work with Zazyk (two artists who use that joint pseu­do­nym when they col­lab­o­rate), who were the lead back­ground artists on Ernest and Ce­les­tine.”

“I think the wa­ter­color also makes a film look warmer,” con­cludes Im­bert. “The com­puter tends to make things look flat and the re­sult can feel cold. Full HD res­o­lu­tion is so pre­cise when you see it on TV; if you want a film to look like the good old days, you have to go inside the com­puter and ‘break’ some­thing to give the art the cor­rect feel­ing.” GKIDS will re­lease The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales in U.S. the­aters in Fe­bru­ary 2018.

Span­ish Pas­toral: The cre­ative team em­pha­sized the col­ors and soft shapes of the nat­u­ral world in con­trast with the sharper an­gles of the ur­ban land­scapes.

Last­ing Im­pres­sion: Di­rec­tor Ben­jamin Ren­ner’s child­hood visit to a farm in south­ern France in­spired the story behind

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