Anders Morgenthaler • Director
“The future of Danish animation is to keep it Scandinavian”
by Annika Pham
After two adult-oriented films, the animated Princess [+see also:
film profile] (the opening film of the 2006 Directors Fortnight in Cannes) and live action drama Echo [+see also:
film profile], Danish filmmaker/writer/illustrator Anders Morgenthaler has made a lighter film, the 2D animation The Apple & the Worm [+see also:
film profile]. Produced for his company Copenhagen Bombay and co-produced with Sweden’s Garage Film, the film received excellent reviews in the local press and is currently playing on Danish screens. Cineuropa spoke to him.
Why did you switch from adult-oriented fare to a kids’ movie?
Anders Morgenthaler: First of all, I’m a filmmaker and a father, so in a way it felt weird not to relate to my own kids. I’ve made a lot of books and TV shows for kids and also recently directed an animation compilation for pre-schools, which led to Apple & the Worm. I also realised that there’s not so much to laugh about in European cinema. The European film world seems to be split in two: the very serious films that few people see and the mainstream comedies. I want to make enjoyable films with serious issues.
How would you describe the storyline of The Apple and the Worm?
The film basically explores what it means for different people to live very close together. So I used the metaphor of an apple and a worm. On the surface, both have a very simple goal in life: the apple wants to be the shiniest, perfect apple. The worm wants to live in peace with the apple to become a beautiful butterfly. The problem is that this will ruin the life of the apple and the apple is kept out of the “apple world” because of the worm. The question I ask through this story is how do you enjoy life by trying to get the best of it all the time? If you set too many goals, perhaps life is not so enjoyable. I also say that it’s OK to have a goal in life but how do you live that life without hurting other people?
Why did you use 2D and not 3D animation?
After Princess, we realised we could do a very high quality 2D animation on a rather low budget. As an illustrator, I really wanted to have that drawn feeling to the characters. So with my animation director Mads Juul, we tried to do a 2D movie with a 3D sense. We wanted to take 2D back to the roots of animation, to the old Disney movies.
Your film was entirely made in Denmark. How was that possible financially?
Usually you need big teams working on animation films, making different stages of the animation often in different territories. My idea was that if we could make The Apple and the Worm for around €2.4m, then we could produce it only from Denmark or Scandinavia. That would allow me to concentrate on the quality of the film, and save us time and money by working with creative people close to me. The future of Danish animation is to keep it Scandinavian where we have both creativity and quality.
What do you think of European animation vs US animation?
I don’t think the way we make movies is so different from the way they do it in the US. If you take Pixar, who make the greatest animation films of all, they believe in director-driven films. Then they have a creative team to support the director in his vision. They also have an enormous amount of money to work on the development process, storyboarding, cinematics etc. They can work with each scene in detail even before starting to animate. We can’t afford this because we need to keep our money for the animation process, to make sure we have the same quality – animation and composite-wise ¬– throughout the whole film.
What are you currently working on?
We’re doing a big satirical animation series for adults, The Pandas, based on our comic strip Wulffmorgenthaler. It consists of two seasons of eight, 22-minute episodes, with a budget of DKK26m (€3.5m). The series is set in the suburbs of a small town where pandas live as a family. Unlike the cute view of Chinese pandas that most people have, we’ll show them as horrible small-time hustlers.
I’m also writing my next feature film. It will be a fantasy action movie for youngsters. It’s about a girl who wants to save the world from climate change and at the same time tries to organise the funeral at sea of her beloved granddad who was a sailor. Wanting to save the whole world can be boiled down to saving the one you love. I’m hoping to go into production in the summer of 2010.
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