The Magical Junk-Filled World of Jiří Barta
Children’s games involve a lot of creative fantasy. Kids use their associative imagination to create adventure and drama in their play. For example, they easily substitute big cupboards for real high mountains. An ordinary vacuum cleaner becomes a jet airplane or a heavy coal stove becomes a steam locomotive. They understand the language of metaphors quite well and of course, it is a beautiful challenge to incorporate this creativity in our animation.
When I found an old exercise book with my drawing of a train made from old train tickets with a piece of cigarette for the smokestack, the kid in my imagination reappeared. Edgar and I remembered the games we used to play in strange forbidden places we found in our attics. Suddenly, our writing brought us a real sense of joy. But unfortunately, after we finished writing, the script became another sleeping project in my drawer. Toys in the Attic slept for almost 10 years until we got a lucky break by accident – Edgar met our great producer in a cab.
DS: Describe the different animation techniques you used making this film.
JB: My colleagues and I used to do projects with a big trick camera and 35mm film, animating using only our hands. I didn’t want to stray too far from our most familiar filmmaking experiences and skills, so I decided to do everything through stop-motion and hand drawn styles. Another reason was because of our concept to use an antique artistic and visual style. I think an antique style looks better done with live human animation techniques rather than with virtual CG animation. On the other hand, computers were very helpful for digital recording, special effects and finally for CG animation in two shots. Also, computers were very important in post-production, as we combined a lot of animation with live-action and many other tricks.
DS: What draws you to stop-motion, as a filmmaker, designer and storyteller? How does the medium help you tell your stories?
JB: There are different projects in my filmography – different themes, design and technologies. Most of them were made using stop-motion because I’ve been working with puppets and 3D objects since my childhood. I used to play in an old marionette theatre. When I was a student, I was a member of a puppet theatre company.
First of all, I am designer, so I think up my stories through still picture drawings and images. So texture, mood and shapes, they are important factors which I match with a developing story. This method helps me imagine the visual side of the film more and to fill animated shots not only with proper movements but also with metaphors, symbols and hidden meanings usually seen in still pictures. Stop-motion is the animation technique that most closely matches my method of storytelling and visual creativity, although I am sometimes frustrated by the limitations of how puppets can act and of working with other mostly still characters.
DS: How long did it take to make this film? Tell us a little about your process.