The book cover illustration above by Rachell Sumpter is responsible for one of the more intriguing animated feature announcements I’ve heard in a while. Director/producer Jonathan Demme has optioned the rights to the Dave Eggers novel Zeitoun, and inspired by its cover, he’s decided to make it as an animated film. Demme told The New York Times:
“I was staring at the book and there’s this wonderful line drawing on the cover, the character of Zeitoun in his canoe, paddling through a submerged neighborhood. And I suddenly imagined, What if we could do an animated film and visualize the experiences of the Zeitoun family and all of New Orleans?”
Eggers’s story is in the thoughtful vein of recent features like $9.99, Perspepolis and Waltz with Bashir, and has little to do with the conventional animated fare being churned out by the major studios. It is a true-life account of an Arab-American man, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, and his harrowing experiences in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Demme says that he is currently “deep, deep, deep into researching” how he’s going to produce the animation for the film, and that he wants to stick with a hand-drawn style.
And now a personal note to Jonathan Demme: Mr. Demme, if you’re reading this, I beg you not to use cheap Flash/AfterEffects-style animation. Don’t Waltz with Bashir this film, and compromise the personal impact of the story with mechanical movement. Maintain the integrity and vitality of the graphic illustration that initially drew you to the project, and bring it to life with the nuance and lushness that only traditional hand-drawn animation can provide. Look at the works of Koji Yamamura, Frédéric Back, and Sylvain Chomet to understand the unique storytelling possibilities of the animation medium. Prove to the world that not every live-action director has a clumsy, heavy-footed, Bob Zemeckis-like approach to the art form.