Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler • Directors of Monty and the Street Party
“This time around, we wanted to do something… Well, almost edifying”
by Jan Lumholdt
- BERLINALE 2020: We sat down with Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler to talk about Monty and the Street Party and their dramatic change in direction
Published daily in newspapers around the world, the Wulffmorgenthaler comic strip is easily identifiable through its distinctive look and its highly off-colour and decidedly politically incorrect humour. Retaining the look but toning down the cheekiness slightly, the two creators Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler have now ventured into the children’s and family genre, presenting the animated feature Monty and the Street Party [+see also:
interview: Mikael Wulff and Anders Mor…
film profile] in the Generation section of the 2020 Berlinale.
Cineuropa: A family film? Readers of your comic strip may be surprised...
Mikael Wulff: Actually, Peter Aalbek Jensen at Zentropa proposed an animated feature to us, featuring our usual raunchy stuff. “No thanks,” we said, “but we would be happy to do a family film.” By then, we had toned down some of the worst things already, which we did when we got American syndication. But we still wanted to be wild and crazy and silly and imaginative and unpredictable, and in a way that others can’t. But this time around, we wanted to do something… Well, almost edifying.
Anders Morgenthaler: The regular WuMo thing would be to kill Monty’s parents and give him some kind of tumour at the end, but not this time around. That said, we still think we have a fresh approach. I mean, how many Pixar or Disney films are there where the main character’s parents are getting a divorce – and where you get to laugh all the way through? We have drawn inspiration from Scandinavian authors like Astrid Lindgren and Ole Lund Kirkegaard, who could make something entertaining out of a serious theme.
This Northern tradition is rightly held in high esteem internationally, not least by the Berlinale youth film programme, and has been throughout the years. Why do you think that is?
AM: I recently read a good piece on Danish children’s films and television, and realised that our position is unique. What we do does not look like anything else. There are no didactic fingers raised whatsoever: we have made some really incorrect and risqué things at times in our corner of the world – and it’s all good. I think that’s part of the secret.
The film has thus far only screened in Denmark. How was the reception?
AM: Well, a number of children have said that it’s the first time that they have sat and laughed at a film with a divorce theme – and at least half of them have already been through one in real life. The film has sold 175,000 tickets, only in theatres. And let’s see what happens here in Berlin…
How long have the two of you known each other now?
MW: A little over 20 years. We were asked to create animated sequences for a television talk show. I did stand-up comedy, and Anders went to film school. Someone put us together, which turned out to be a great idea. We were very anarchic, very offbeat. Then we submitted a couple of comic strips for a competition held by the Politiken daily – using a female pseudonym – and we won. Part of the award was that we got to do a month of daily strips for them, which later turned into a steady gig. Technically, I write and Anders draws, but in reality, our ideas go back and forth. We still have fun.
How many countries are you now published in? And could you practically retire on what you make from it?
AM: I’m not quite sure. Our American agent sells it all over the place. We’re in a lot of American papers and on many websites; we’re in Spanish and in the Bangkok Post in Thailand… Easily 200-300 different windows, some big and some small.
MW: As for financial security, not really, although everyone tends to think so. You don’t make that much. But we do get some okay money from time to time.
Is there a second Monty story in the works?
AW: There is. There are three films in the pipeline, as we like the serial format. The second is called Monty and His Strange Brain, and here, Monty gets a diagnosis and is home-schooled by his mother. We hope to get it out in 2022. It’s pretty wild.
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