A Unique Collaboration - Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest
The animated short Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest is a unique cross-generational collaboration. The subject, Ingrid Pitt, is best known as the screen beauty that starred in such films as The Wicker Man and Where Eagles Dare. But from the ages of five to eight she was a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp at Stutthof, Poland. The actress tells her story through narration in this short directed and produced by Kevin Sean Michaels, who produced the documentary Adventures in Plymptoons! To bring Pitt's story to life, Michaels brought together two artists with more than 50 years apart in age — animation master Bill Plympton and 11-year-old animator Perry Chen.
How the collaboration between Michaels, Plympton and Chen came about is a great story as well. At Comic-Con in 2009, Chen visited Plympton's table and asked for a drawing. Plympton drew the boy a picture of his classic dog character from his Oscar-nominated short Guard Dog. Chen then drew an identical version right next to it. Michaels, who was there, thought the kid was a prodigy and they all needed to work together on this project.
Plympton's first collaboration Chen was on the award-winning Guard Dog Global Jam, created by 75 animators around the world based on Plympton’s Guard Dog. Chen created scene 41 in the film, which premiered at SXSW in March 2011 and won Best Experimental Film Award at the ASIFA-East Animation Festival in May 2011. When the Ingrid Pitt project came along, Michaels and Plympton thought the young artist could bring a childlike sensibility to the story of a young girl's escape from the Holocaust.
Michaels had first met Pitt during a speaking engagement in New York. He was captivated by her autobiography Darkness Before Dawn and thought she'd make a great subject for a documentary. In 2007, Michaels interviewed the actress at her home in the U.K., which served as the basis for the film's voiceover.
Plympton came on a consultant, drawing the storyboards for the film. Chen animated from those boards. Dr. Jud Newborn, founding historian for New York's Museum of Heritage and special projects curator for the Cinema Arts Centre, was brought on as a creative consultant, historical advisor and co-producer, alongside Dr. Zhu Shen, also known as Perry's mom. The Anne Frank Center USA, The Cinema Arts Centre, Toon Boom and Wacom joined as sponsors. The latter two companies provided software and hardware, respectively, for Chen to animate with.
The short starts with an adult Pitt looking out a window at a forest. As the camera zooms in on the trees, the trees transform into the boots of the Gestapo soldiers as the children walk off to the concentration camps. At the closing of the war, Ingrid and her mother join others in an escape as the Russian soldiers invade the camps.