A destitute family, an uneasy property developer, and an unrealistic landlady clinging to the past all find themselves grappling with control when they inhabit The House. The mysterious dwelling is the titular character of Netflix’s new three-part series that brings some of the most promising names of stop-motion animation to the major television platform.
Created at Nexus Studios, the dark comedy is a collaboration between Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels (previously), Niki Lindroth von Bahr, and Paloma Baeza, who each created a different segment of the story. The first part, set in the 1800s, features de Swaef and Roels’s pudgy, woolen characters, the second zeroes in on Lindroth von Bahr’s anxious rat in a present-day nightmare of cockroaches and hospital visits, and the final ventures to the near future with Baeza’s cats experiencing a post-climate crisis world. “The House is a collection of cinematic stories that are intelligent, witty, inquisitive, warm, and yet packed with offbeat humor,” Nexus co-founder Charlotte Bavasso said.
Ahead of its release today on Netflix, Short of The Week went behind-the-scenes with the animators and producers involved in the surreal trilogy, and get a tease of what’s to come in the trailer below.
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In Anu-Laura Tuttelberg’s stop-motion short “Winter In The Rainforest,” time passes at an unusual pace. The Estonian writer, director, and animator (previously) sets a cast of fragile, porcelain puppets within the lush rainforests of Chiapas, Mexico, and the Peruvian Amazon, a contrast of real and manufactured that grounds the surreal story. Throughout the film, carnivorous flowers trap their prey, an articulate grasshopper climbs a tree, and a miniature girl wakes from a stupor at a clip that’s wildly different from their timelapsed surroundings, which are evident through leaves shaking in the wind and shadows rolling across the landscape at a quickened tempo.
Shot with 16-millimeter film, the grainy short is years in the making—Tuttelberg details the process on her site—and blurs the boundaries between the imagined and real in both material and narrative. Rather than create an illusion of the characters occupying the tropical ecosystem in a lifelike manner, each element progresses at its own speed. She explains:
While moving the puppets frame by frame, I let the light and the nature in the background move naturally. In this way, the puppets are moving smoothly in their own pace and the nature around them is changing rapidly. This creates a new obscure reality of time and space in the film. It keeps the viewer aware of the stop motion technique in the film. I don’t want to hide the animation technique behind the scene but rather to bring it out and observe the new strange reality it creates.
“Winter In The Rainforest” has already won numerous festival awards, and Tuttelberg tells Colossal she’s working on a sequel titled “On Weary Wings Go By,” which brings the same cast to the frigid beaches of Estonia and Norway. You can keep an eye out for that project, and watch the animator’s previous works, on Vimeo.
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Ten years after Irish animator and director Johnny Kelly (previously) brought us a charming stop-motion ad for Chipotle about a farmer’s return to organic methods, he’s back with an emotional sequel that revisits the now-aging protagonist. The new short film, titled “A Future Begins,” follows the same mustached rancher as he struggles to maintain his pesticide-free fields and natural techniques amidst weather catastrophes and other struggles. When his son returns from college and a busy life in the city, the reunited family implements a range of sustainable technologies like solar panels, greenhouses, polyculture, and companion planting that make the farm thrive.
Kelly and the team behind the new ad documented their meticulous process in an immersive making-of video, which dives into pre-production digital mockups, techniques for hand-sculpting innumerable trees and the bucolic landscape, and updates to the puppets themselves, which feature magnetic waists that allow them to pivot in various stances. Similar to its award-winning predecessor, “A Future Begins” is paired with a Coldplay cover, with this iteration featuring “Fix You” by Kasey Musgraves.
Find more of Kellly’s animated projects and collaborations on Vimeo.
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What begins with a calm morning filled with stunningly bright sunlight quickly morphs into a short film of existential crises and the life-altering implications of climate disasters. Directed by Frédéric Even and Louise Mercadier with production by Papy3D and JPL Films, “Sororal” is a profound stop-motion animation that follows three sisters as they react to warnings about the sea submerging the land. The trio has incredibly varied and relatable responses, with Madeleine instantly consumed by panic, Emilie forming a mystical bond to the water, and Anna approaching the situation with extreme apathy.
“Sororal” presents the siblings’ reactions to the impending flood as physical manifestations: Because Madeleine and Anna resist accepting the news, their bodies become hard and brittle and form crusty, salt-laden scabs (these scenes are slightly graphic and use nude figures). Emilie, on the other hand, remains flexible and unscathed.
In a conversation with the animation publication Skwigly, Even and Mercadier share that they first digitally rendered the puppets before 3D printing them in resin. The sisters’ faces are inspired by French Gothic and Asian art forms of the 12th Century, and their bodies leave the black annealed wire armature visible, a decision the filmmakers explain:
We didn’t want to hide that they were puppets, to be realistic and give them the appearance of flesh and blood characters. We found that seeing the mouth replacement lines and the joints in their hands help make them fragile and touching and although the distance is established with a being of flesh and bone it creates more empathy than with more realistic representation. We feel that they can break. We feel the precariousness of their construction. They appear all the more disarmed in the face of the immense wave which threatens them.
“Sororal” features dialogue entirely in French, so be sure to click the CC button to turn on English captions. The animation follows Even and Mercadier’s first project titled “Metamorphosis,” a 2015 retelling of Kafka’s short story, and they’re now working on a film about a foolish angel lost in space and time. (via Short of the Week)
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Dougal is a nervous little bird with an overwhelming dread for an activity he’s supposed to instinctively enjoy: he’s afraid to fly. A charming short film written and directed by Conor Finnegan follows Dougal as he hunkers down in the north for the winter. Throughout his journey, the anxious creature faces a multitude of obstacles, from a blustery trudge through a snowstorm to the threat of a thieving squirrel, before finally deciding to join his friends down south.
Seamlessly combining live-action puppetry and stop-motion techniques, “Fear of Flying” is a collaborative project—Finnegan details the entire process in an interview with Short of the Week—that involved Fallover Bros and Renate Henschke crafting the flock of wide-eyed avians and a larger team of 14 or 15 creatives aiding in production.
Watch more of Finnegan’s light-hearted animations, which include one detailing an unusual friendship between Rock, Paper, and Scissors and another about a dutiful character named Fluffy McCloud, on his agency’s site.
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To draw attention to the ongoing refugee crisis, an oversized puppet will traverse 8,000 kilometers on a route starting at the Turkey-Syria border. From April to July 2021, “Little Amal” will travel across Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France on a search “to find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life.” The international journey will end in the United Kingdom, with a celebration at Manchester International Festival. Good Chance Theatre, a London-based organization dedicated to humanitarian and social justice efforts, is helming the public project “embodying the urgent message, ‘Don’t forget about us.'”
The 3.5-meter tall character, which was created by Handspring Puppet Company, will stop in 70 cities across Europe to meet with locals and participate in celebrations and education programs. “At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics, and language to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story,” Good Chance writes in a statement.
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