In this special Cartoon Brew series, we asked the five nominees of the 2013 Best Animated Short Academy Award to discuss the artwork of their films. Today we begin this exclusive look at the short contenders with Feral, an independent film directed by Daniel Sousa.
Daniel Sousa: “Initially, the film was going to tell the story of Kasper Hauser, a boy who had been locked in a dark room for his whole childhood, without human contact. He escaped when he was a teenager, and was found in the center of town holding a mysterious letter that read: “I want to be a horse-rider, like my father.” The riddle fascinated me, so the first few designs are illustrations of that story. This one is a simple watercolor study.”
Daniel Sousa: “I also tried pen-and-ink and playing around with transparencies, thinking of the boy as a hollow receptacle of information, soaking in the chaos of the new-found civilization, allowing it to flow through him.”
Daniel Sousa: “As my research into the subject progressed, I gradually moved away from the specific story of Kasper Hauser and started exploring just the idea of an isolated child, trapped in his own mind, naked and fragile. This is a look test done in acrylics on board.”
Daniel Sousa: “I started to feel that the boy needed to be more savage, untamed, aggressive. So I tried a very loose painterly approach, allowing the brush-strokes to be more expressive, and removing the facial features since they gave the character a very cartoony and overly sentimental look. Without facial features the boy looked more mysterious, like a blank slate, without personality. He felt ghostly and more animalistic. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking, and that was crucial for the story.”
Daniel Sousa: “Following this line of thinking, I started to build the world around the boy, using broad shapes and silhouettes, blocks of shadow and light. I started to feel that I was finally capturing the wight and physicality that the story required. At this stage, the hunter character was not yet fully developed, so here he is shown as a fisherman, or a farmer.”
Daniel Sousa: “Then I started to refine the color palette of the film, desaturating the extremes but staying within an earthy, harmonized spectrum, and using strong contrasts of light and shadow. The world around the boy needed to feel cold and oppressive, so a saturated color space no longer made sense. Here the man is still a fisherman, holding a net, but his look is already very close to the final version. The cityscapes were informed by my memories of Lisbon, a patchwork of shingled rooftops and plastered walls.”