Making drawings come alive
For Jannik Hastrup, the grand old man of Danish animation, content is always king.
A painter would prefer to work by hand rather than rely on a machine. If I were to work in 3D then `Circleen' would look like `Shrek'
HIGH ART The animation style in 'Mice and Romance' is inspired by Picasso
As the little elf Circleen and her mice friends go about celebrating the bullied Cindermouse's birthday in Circleen Mice and Romance, one does not really worry about the fact that the mice have eyes on one side of their faces. What one is really interested in is the action - whether Ingolf's will help Cindermouse escape her tyrannical father.
Director Jannik Hastrup, who was in town for a retrospective of his films that was screened at the 14th International Children's Film Festival, agreed as he said, "Children, who the films are meant for, do not analyse what they see. As long as it is involving and interesting, it is fine."
Explaining the logic behind the placement of the eyes, Jannik comments, "The animation follows the style of the Seventies and Eighties which drew heavily on Picasso."
Jannik Hastrup has been an animator since he was "19 years old. Now it is too late to change my profession! I will never do live action, as I am fascinated with animation - when drawings come alive. For instance, take the creation of Circleen 35 years ago. An artist is drawing - we just focussed on a hand holding a pencil. Suddenly the pencil takes over and draws a circle. The artist asks `who are you' and the circle jumps off the page to become Circleen, the little elf in the matchbox who sleeps on the artist's table. The process of drawing a hand drawing is fascinating."
Circleen has become a superstar in her native Denmark with many movies and merchandising - basically the works.
If that reminds one of the mega projects from Hollywood, Jannik ruefully comments, "We cannot compete with Hollywood. Sixty per cent of the movies screened in Denmark are from Hollywood. Money is never an object for them. They do not mind spending money on publicity."
The world of animation has changed drastically with the advent of computers. "Technology has helped a little. But it is just a tool. Call me old fashioned but I like hand-drawn animation. For The Boy Who Wanted to be a Bear, we used classic animation where we used a Chinese painting style. For Mice and Romance we made paper cut outs of the characters, placed the camera on top and took a picture then moved the characters infinitesimally and photographed them again. For the new Circleen movie, the movement is done by computer. And finally it is the story that matters. If your story is not good even the most brilliant animation cannot save it."
PHOTO: K. GAJENDRAN
NATIONAL PRIDE Jannik believes in developing an indigenous style
"3D animation is not for me as it is expensive and textures are just not right. I think a painter would always prefer to work by hand rather than rely on a machine. If I were to work in 3D then Circleen would look like Shrek."
There is a little dig about Hollywood animated features in Mice and Romance when one of the mice wants to know why he should sing just because he is a cartoon character!
Jannik, who watched Shambhoo Phalke's The Legend of Buddha, says, "Honestly, I felt the film was an unhappy marriage between America and India. It is important for young animators to find their own roots. India is rich in arts with an indigenous art style, which should be incorporated in animation. This is a fascinating country and young animators should work at developing an Indian style of movement and colour and not just try to imitate the American way."
Jannik has an amusing tale behind the hoarse voices of the mice. "I had two boys to give voices for the mice and I noticed they were very stiff and conscious. So I decided to take a break and during the break the boys were playing and they were talking in these hoarse voices. The voices served as a kind of disguise, a mask and the boys dropped all inhibitions so I told them to use their pretend voices and it worked perfectly well." Jannik feels most children's films "are made by old people and disrespect children. They talk down to children. Instead we should open the door to our childhood and remember what it was to be a child."
Jannik, who has been an inspiration for generations of animators, is one person who has kept the door perpetually open to illustrate, colour and bring alive wonderful worlds in varied hues.
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