Among the dozens of short films that will screen in competition at Annecy next week, there’s one that wasn’t conceived as a film at all. In Michael Frei’s KIDS, a crowd of featureless humanoids enacts absurd, often violent scenarios, guided by some kind of insane groupthink. What isn’t apparent is that KIDS was simultaneously developed as a game, in which the player is tasked with shepherding these hapless figures.
Frei has been here before. After releasing his previous film Plug & Play, which asks similar questions about individuality and human contact, the Swiss animator teamed up with developer Mario von Rickenbach to adapt it into a game. Frei was inspired by how viewers interact with films online – how they tend to scrub, pause, or stop midway through, rather than passively watching.
Frei and von Rickenbach collaborated again on KIDS. This time, however, they envisioned it as both a game and a film from the start. But it actually began life as an installation, as Frei tells Cartoon Brew: