Vassilis Kroustallis reports from the industry event on new Polish stop-motion animation, during Animarkt Stop Motion Forum 2021.

The pandemic doesn't stop creation, research and promising projects. This is what we watched and learned during the 'What's New in Polish Stop-Motion Animation' industry event of the 6th Animarkt Stop Motion Forum (7-12 December 2021).

Michał Łubiński, Piotr Matysiak (VnLab), Katarzyna Gromadzka (Momakin), Weronika Kozłowska (WJTeam / Likaon), Maja Garmulewicz (Kaz Studio), and Sean Bobbitt (Breakthru Films) presented their latest projects (creative or research or both), and gave a very optimistic note for the future of the -so intensive- stop-motion animation field.

Michał Łubiński, the winner of Animarkt Stop Motion pitching forum 2018, laid out the latest of his sisterly love and space adventures 'Astra' story. 6-year-old Astra tries to stop her sister from taking place in a dangerous mission; the space settings of the short film (produced by the Polish Audiovisual Technology Center -CeTA) imply a unique approach to be found in terms of depicting its characters and set.

Earlier drawn character designs were skipped in favor of more exaggerated one, before these in turn were finalized into the final look for the film. 3D printing for faces proved to be an invaluable tool, even though all faces had to be hand-painted afterwards.

Bartosz Kotarski animator on the Astra set

Sets were both drawn and (alternatively) designed in the 3D environment, while the effect took their inspiration from Douglas Trumbull's work on '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968). It is a gamble to juggle between analogue and the digital, yet it seems that 'Astra' film brings forward the desired balance.

Katarzyna Gromadzka (Momakin) presented a novel system of puppet armatures developed in Momakin, which involves connectors (no soldering) to facilitate the animators' own work. The armatures still employ raditional sizes (small - 20cm, medium - 25 cm , big -30cm) for different character models and needs. Custom design is also available, and more opportunities presented seem to make the stop-motion process a less burdensome affair.

Cinematographer and VnLab representative Piotr Matysiak still believes in the stereoscopic format; yet, unlike the traditional, post-production stereoscopic 3D process employed by major film studios, he presented his own research project (and film) 'InSide' by Studio s3D. Starting from the production side of things, and the different shooting required for the left and right eye in the stereoscopic format, the studio's process aims to "extend the artistic language of the film". Aided by technology and a robotic environment, it is exciting to see which sorts of narratives will be developed especially for this stereoscopic animation technique.

InSide

Marek Skrobecki (Birthday Cake, Ichthys, Danny Boy) needs no introduction; yet it was enlightening to watch artistic director Maja Garmulewicz (Kaz Studio) explain the rationale behind his latest directed TV series effort for pre-school kids, 'Babies and the Bear'. The 26x3.30 minute series (also competed at Annecy Festival, among others) now enters a second season. Garmulewicz brought out how simplified sets and the white background bring a familiarity with the themes addressed. The series' flowing animation movement is also one of its real assets.


WJTeam / Likaon and its representative, Weronika Kozłowskais justifiably proud for the studio to provide puppets for Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs' (2018); yet their own produced films, like 'Your Own Bullshit' by Daria Kopiec have traveled well in the festival circuit.



Next big project, the 20-minute puppet film 'The Bridge', a story of a 1920s Japanese-Polish friendship (dir. Izumi Yoshida). The project was pitched during the 2018 Animarkt Stop Motion Forum, and its first images shows that it has its heart in the right place.



Last but not least, Sean Bobbitt (Breakthru Films, the company responsible for 'Loving Vincent'), briefed about the new animation feature in production, 'The Peasants'. Directed by Dorota Kobiela, it is based on the novel by Wladyslaw Reymont, ’The Peasants’ is a tragic story of a peasant girl Jagna forced to marry a much older, wealthy farmer Boryna, despite her love for his son Antek.




The film is now in production; yet early challenges involved trimming down the 800-page novel to a shooting script, and finding the right balance between painting (another painted animation feature) and dramatic action. 'The Peasants' is set out to be more complex and dramatic than 'Loving Vincent'. So far (December 2021), 15% of the film has been painted so far, with a 2023 premiere still set.

Obviously, there are still more Polish stop-motion films in the making; yet this presentation can give us a glimpse of how all these different department in stop-motion, from puppet making to set design to shooting and distributing can actually inform each other in this very meticulous (and lovely) process.

Animarkt Stop Motion Forum runs from 7 to 12 December in Lodz, Poland, and online.

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