Drift­ing Away

Louise Bag­nall’s award-win­ning short Late Af­ter­noon paints a poignant pic­ture of an older woman with de­men­tia. By Ramin Za­hed

Animation Magazine - - Shorts -

W hen Ir­ish an­i­ma­tor Louise Bag­nall was a young girl, she wit­nessed her par­ents tak­ing care of her ag­ing grand­par­ents, who seemed to be slowly los­ing their fac­ul­ties. A few years ago, she be­gan to read and watch doc­u­men­taries about de­men­tia, and while her grand­par­ents didn’t suf­fer from that dis­ease, she re­al­ized that they had sim­i­lar symp­toms.

“As a child, I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand the prob­lem, and I thought they were just my grand­par­ents who were get­ting old,” Bag­nall says dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view. “It was years later as an adult that I re­ally un­der­stood what was go­ing on.”

Her in­ter­est in the sub­ject led her to start sketch­ing ideas for de­pict­ing the var­i­ous stages of a woman’s life. “I was just col­lect­ing these ideas in an ab­stract way, and then, in 2016, I tried to get fund­ing to de­velop the idea as a short, it all came to­gether.” The re­sult is Late Af­ter­noon, a mov­ing an­i­mated short which has won sev­eral awards and been show­cased in over 60 fes­ti­vals around the world over the past year.

Bag­nall, who is a creative direc­tor at Kilkenny-based stu­dio Car­toon Saloon and has worked as a char­ac­ter de­signer on Puf­fin Rock and The Bread­win­ner and sto­ry­board artist on the up­com­ing fea­ture Wolfwalk­ers, is also the as­sis­tant direc­tor on Nora Twomey’s up­com­ing Net­flix movie My Fa­ther’s Dragon. “Ev­ery­one at Car­toon Saloon was very sup­port­ive of the short, and my pro­ducer, Nuria Blanco, came on board, and to­gether we put in the sub­mis­sion to get the fund­ing from the Ir­ish Film Board’s shorts ini­tia­tive pro­gram Frame­works.”

Bag­nall be­gan pro­duc­ing the short in Septem­ber of 2016 and fin­ished it a year later. She used Tv­paint soft­ware for char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion (as do most of the Car­toon Saloon projects) and Pho­to­shop for tex­tures and to get the wa­ter­color look, and Adobe After Ef­fects for com­posit­ing. “Once you fin­ish the short, there’s a quiet pe­riod when you’re just sub­mit­ting it to fes­ti­vals, and then we started to get into a lot of fes­ti­val in the be­gin­ning of the year,” she notes. “Be­ing fea­tured at the Tribeca fes­ti­val was bril­liant, and win­ning the prize for best an­i­mated short was

— Writer and direc­tor Louise Bag­nall

even bet­ter, be­cause it helped us place the film in even more fes­ti­vals.”

The tal­ented an­i­ma­tor says she’s been es­pe­cially moved by how au­di­ences re­act to her short after screen­ings. “It’s been quite spe­cial to have peo­ple come to me in­di­vid­u­ally and tell me about a par­ent or grand­par­ent who has de­men­tia. I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect that to hap­pen, and it also showed me how many peo­ple have some­one in their lives fac­ing this is­sue.”

Early In­flu­ences

As a young girl grow­ing up in Dublin, Bag­nall watched a lot of Bri­tish an­i­mated shows such as the pop­u­lar stop-mo­tion se­ries The Clangers. “It wasn’t un­til I was a teenager when I fi­nally saw anime and it blew my mind,” she says. “Some of my other fa­vorites in­cluded Dis­ney films like The Lion King, and I was also a big fan of comic books by peo­ple like Scott Morse and Jamie Hewlett.”

Look­ing back at her ed­u­ca­tion (she stud­ied an­i­ma­tion at the In­sti­tute of Art, De­sign + Tech­nol­ogy in Dublin) and im­pres­sive ca­reer, Bag­nall says she’s glad she was open to all pos­si­bil­i­ties and that she trav­eled to dif­fer­ent coun­tries after she fin­ished her stud­ies. “What I tell an­i­ma­tion stu­dents is that there are more op­tions out there for you than you re­al­ize,” she says. “It’s good to spend time fig­ur­ing out what you like to do and en­joy. Try dif­fer­ent ar­eas to see which best suits your tal­ents. For me, work­ing in Ger­many was amaz­ing and gave me more in­sight. Young peo­ple shouldn’t be afraid to leave their coun­try and ex­plore other places, be­cause even if it doesn’t work out, they can al­ways re­turn back home.”

She is also quite proud of what Ir­ish stu­dios such as Car­toon Saloon, Brown Bag and oth­ers have ac­com­plished in re­cent years. “The Ir­ish an­i­ma­tion boom has been amaz­ing since we’re a small coun­try in terms of size and pop­u­la­tion,” Bag­nall notes, “but our gov­ern­ment has been very sup­port­ive and has helped the in­dus­try grow so much in the past 10 years.”

Bag­nall says she re­ally loves play­ing in the short an­i­ma­tion field. “Some sto­ries fit the for­mat best!” she points out. “You can be more ex­pres­sive. It’s def­i­nitely a great way to tell per­sonal sto­ries, and it suits the mod­ern age well, be­cause you can put them on­line and peo­ple can eas­ily find time for a 10-minute short. Not ev­ery idea should be a fea­ture film!”

‘ It’s been quite spe­cial to have peo­ple tell me about a par­ent or grand­par­ent who has de­men­tia. I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect that to hap­pen, and it also showed me how many peo­ple have some­one in their lives fac­ing this is­sue.’

tailed and pol­ished crea­ture. “As we hone in on the per­for­mance, then we can start think­ing about the mus­cles and dy­nam­ics of the fur,” says Mc­connel. “The eyes are the win­dows to the soul, and were crit­i­cal in sell­ing the be­liev­abil­ity of the Zouwu in close-up shots. In the be­gin­ning we played them like bug eyes but they didn’t feel grounded enough. The big eyes needed to be sup­ported by mus­cle, struc­ture and cheek­bones.”

The Zouwu needed to feel like a co­he­sive crea­ture. “You have this lizard-like qual­ity, a mane and a rib­bon-like tail, so what ac­tu­ally is it?” notes Mc­connel. “Rather than chang­ing ev­ery­thing and re­design­ing the pro­por­tions, we found that tex­tur­ing the Zuowu like a cat helped to blend all of those dif­fer­ent de­sign

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