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The View From Hollywood

Raimund Krumme, one of Germany's top independent animators who is now working on a feature version of a children's classic, talks about Hollywood and the challenges posed by his new project.

I sit in my air conditioned office, with a view of the Hollywood sign, of which I can only read "wood," as it is partially blocked by a Scientology sign, and I contemplate the strange fate that brought me here. I am working on a Hollywood movie! What do my short minimalist poems have to do with these novellas, which entice all your senses? But perhaps these two worlds are not that different. When people in Europe snub their noses at Hollywood movies, they forget they have picked the subjects here, which are neither funny or glamorous, nor are they heroic epics. There were films made about autistic and handicapped people, about rape and loss of work--and all managed to be successful movies. Also, in animated films we see a different approach to a traditional medium.

KrummeHollywood1.gifKrummeHollywood2.gifGot Milk commercial, directed by Raimund Krumme. Courtesy of Acme Filmworks.

Something New For the past few months, working on the feature version of Harold and the Purple Crayon, I have gotten to know a cartoon figure who experiences his world, his dreams and fears through his art. He is perplexed by the fact that his simple drawings, sometimes turn out to be more complex than he expected; and the same drawings, looked at from another angle or dimension, are transformed into something new, with different dimensions in another spatial order. Many ideas develop from within the flow of the drawings themselves, a process I am very familiar with.

From this point of view, moving from independent short films to this production was not that big a deal. Harold uses his crayon to understand the world around him. Because a simple line-drawing allows diverse interpretations, he makes many new discoveries, and eventually sees himself as being trapped.. It takes another line to change the situation and to free himself.

I work a little like Harold when I work on a film. Besides having a plot, there is not much written. Things evolve by drawing them. This is where my ideas come from. The simplicity of the drawing lets you concentrate on movement. Because my drawings sometimes only gain meaning through motion, it is possible to change content by adding a new movement. Even an abstract line or geometric form can be changed emotionally by a poetic action, because we recognize certain patterns of motion in our everyday life. It might be this verfrendung (strange point of view) of the well-known pattern, that finds easier access to the heart.

Exploring the vast possibilities of animation might get one to a point where the medium itself is into dialogue with the story. We show our tools to the viewers--look this is the paper we draw on, this is the ink, look what's happening if we change the timing ...Combining these levels, we create a new logic, which can be really entertaining, as Tex Avery has shown. I wonder how much of the production process can be included in a film? A figure emerges and we still can feel the presence of the hand that drew it--the aggressive gesture, the mellow, soft movement, or the uncertain scribble.

Communicating Emotions

My figures often come to life like this. Their existence as brush strokes comes randomly, rather than through analysis. The particular movement of the hand communicates emotions in a very direct way. The problem is to get this spontaneous drawing, which includes traces of its creation, into fluent, acceptable animation. It is a contradiction, because you either have to give up all spontaneity, drawing the inbetweens, or you keep it and get a nervous, boiling animation. I once imagined computers could fill this gap. What seems to be a difficult task for the inbetweener or inker might be done with a computer, without loosing the drawings' character. It might be actually easier for the computer to keep a complex texture, like a brush stroke or a crayon drawing than really animating. After all, one still needs a large amount of intuition to move drawings, something a computer lacks.

I ask myself how to keep this human factor, this soul, in a more or less rationalized environment due to the amount of footage we have to produce. The animation process is much more fragmented here, even in this (by American standards) comparatively small-scale production. Ideas are produced by a group of people--writers, storyboard artists, art department. It is a more of a group process, which has to be blessed by the producer, and divvied up into different departments. Not that I don't see the necessity for this procedure, I only hope that I can do as much as possible of the work I think important.

After all, nothing is certain. We might not get into production at all, and all these thoughts might turn out to be nothing more than theoretical contemplation.

Raimunde Krumme is an award-winning German director who is currently working in Hollywood on Sony' Picture's Harold and the Purple Crayon. He is a founding member of Cartoon--animation branch of the Media Program of the European Union in Brussels.

Visit Raimund's Gallery on Animation World Network