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CBTV Student Fest #3: August by Matthias Hoegg

Continuing our Student Animation Festival, we’re proud to present August created by Matthias Hoegg at the Royal College of Art. He has created that rare student film which manages to be stylish not just visually but also through its unconventional and layered approach to storytelling. Shoot questions and comments to Matthias in the comment thread below. Here are Matthias’s notes about his film:

I made my film August whilst on my two year Masters course in Animation at the Royal College of Art in London. I started the course with a loose idea for a film based around a Japanese fable, “The Dream of Akinosuke”. In the fable a wealthy landowner takes an afternoon nap in the shade of a big tree during a picnic with friends. He has an epic dream in which he’s married to the princess of a remote island empire for several years. When he awakes shortly after his friends tell him that a yellow butterfly, a symbol of the soul, appeared to have come out of his mouth when he was sleeping before being grabbed by an ant and dragged underground. Digging open the ants nest the men uncover an entire ant kingdom, in which Akinosuke immediately recognizes a model version of the island kingdom from his dream.

I was really intrigued by the fable’s blend of metaphor and natural reality. So the starting point for my film was really to use a colony of ants activities to reflect the internal process of a human character’s mind. Looking for a more contemporary setting that would involve ants I remembered my first awkward attempts at having a holiday of my own with friends as a teenager. After making a complete tip of our campsite we had to keep moving our tent onto different spots so that the ants that we attracted wouldn’t catch up with us. Perhaps I should mention here that I am originally from Munich, Germany and if you have ever been to a German-style campsite you may have witnessed campers dedicating their entire holiday to tidying and keeping a perfect order in the great outdoors. We were clearly the weakest link in that community. In August I wanted to use the ants to create anticipation and a sense of adventure that the boys are looking for in their holiday, when in fact they fail to realize any of it on a human scale.

I started storyboarding the film in late 2008 and had finished it by early June 2009. All elements of the film were drawn digitally and then animated in a cut-out style. I enjoyed working with the constraints of the cut-out approach and the sense of awkwardness it evoked in the characters. My friend the 3D modeler Mattias Bjurstom got on board with this project and he created the 3D set for the film based on a cardboard model of a camper van and various textures that I provided him with. Most recently I have put the final touches on my graduation film at the RCA. It is called Thursday and it follows two characters through and out of the repeating patterns of everyday life, but in a future world. Its style is more simplified and graphic, using a range of patterns that were created in 2D and 3D to evoke the dazzling futuristic world that the characters inhabit. I am represented by Beakus in London, a new animation studio started by Bafta-award winner and Trunk founder Steve Smith.

See more of Matthis Hoegg’s work at

  • KOTH goes camping. In slow motion.

  • This is so beautiful! I love it. The design, the characters,the animation, the color. All of it!

  • Rob

    Really brilliant. well done

  • Great film. I really enjoyed it.

  • Sat

    It turned out way better than I thought! I loved the way it’s told and the Busby Berkeley bits.

  • Well done Matthias! Looks great!
    For those who liked this, Matthias’ next film ‘Thursday’ is finished and you can watch the trailer at

  • This is a beautiful film in so many ways and I loved reading about the inspiration for it.

    I’d love to know more about the soundtrack. It sounds like the bird songs were carefully chosen and to my ear they are all birds of open areas – although I thought I heard both Inca Dove and Eastern Meadowlark; although there is some range overlap, Western Meadowlark might have been a better choice. Was it deliberate?

    Really nice work.

    • Thanks for your comment and for listening so carefully to the sound design. It’s great if people can pick up on little details like that.

      I always imagined the campsite to be somewhere in Central Europe, so I have to admit that some invasive species may have flown in through the sound library. I guess the selection was quite subjective and mostly just based on the atmosphere I thought the bird calls would create. Funily enough I used bird sounds of Blackbirds from an Introduction-to-Birdwatching CD for my new film. I should really consider getting serious about my birdwatching tendencies when I take a break from Animation.

      • Matthias, thanks for the reply. I don’t know how many people listen carefully, but birdwatching is growing very fast in popularity – I recently heard new figures about this on National Public Radio although I don’t recall what they were. The point is, more and more people may be paying attention to the details!

        One of my favorites of what I like to call “avian bloopers” was in My Cousin Vinny (1992). A screech owl (Otus asio) is shown “screeching” in the woods, but the voice is that of a barn owl (Tyto alba). I thought that was really a hoot ;)

        If you would like to run any sound track choices by me, I’m happy to help.

  • beautiful design, dude!