MIFA’s Work in Progress presentations offered online delegates a glimpse into some highly anticipated features, series and interactive projects in the second week of Annecy’s online festival.
Leading the pack was upcoming America-Canadian animated TV series from Netflix “The Cuphead Show!” – based on the characters in the best-selling Canadian “gun and run” video game “Cuphead.”
While the game has been highly praised for its authentic “rubber hose” style animation inspired by the Fleischer-produced toons of the 1930s, the TV series aims to go a step further – fleshing out some of the more minor characters and painstakingly reproducing watercolor sets for a digital production line.
According to executive producers Dave Wasson (“Micky Mouse Shorts”) and Cosmo Segurson (“Rocko’s Modern Life”), the pilot has been designed to introduce the show’s two main characters – a pair of energetic and bickering siblings called Cuphead and Mugman.
The characters live with Elder Kettle in the middle of the woods until they leave to embark on a host of wild and dangerous adventures across the Inkwell Isles.
Wasson explained that each island is a different land, making the universe of Cuphead “a rich and visual tapestry.”
The show’s producers praised Ireland-based animation studio Lighthouse Studios for realizing the series’ vision.
“While the style was 1930s, we still wanted it to be character driven – with snappier comedic sensibilities. It was a big ask but they are really coming through for us on that,” Segurson added.
A stand out from the preview footage is the lush, rich, watercolor textured backgrounds, and the scale, color and detail in scenes – including the devil’s headquarters, all created by the series’ art director Andrea Fernandez.
According to Fernandez, while the sets were digitized, she wanted animators with previous watercolor animation experience “as they had to understand how it moves,” she said.
The voice cast was also revealed during the presentation with Tru Valentino (“Fast and Furious Spy Races”) as Cuphead; American voice actor Frank Todaro as Mugman; Luke Millington Drake as the debonaire Devil; Joe Hanna as the voice of Elder Kettle and American voice actor, comedian and singer-songwriter Grey Griffin channeling her best Katharine Hepburn as Ms Chalice. Another WIP with a colorful, throwback style was the French feature “Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds,” directed by Benoit Chieux and produced by Ron Dyens through Sacrebleu Productions.
Its imaginary world, in which two sisters encounter winged crocodiles, weird clouds and the mysterious Sirocco who controls the winds, conjures up the world of George Dunning’s 1960s classic “Yellow Submarine”.
Aimed at the five-plus family market, Dyens revealed that plans for this unique universe will extend beyond the 75-minute feature, with a book and TV series franchise following a similar route to Folivari’s “Ernest et Celestine” and Pixar’s “Big Hero 6.”
“Our strategy is to create a license of books around the adventures of the two little girls and the Kingdom; the book will come out before the film’s release [set for 2022] and following its release we want to launch a TV series and a further collection of books,” the producer said.
Other standout WIP features included “Inu-Oh “ from previous Annecy Cristal winner Masaaki Yuasa, which tells the tale of a 14th century performer and playwright Inu-Oh. Yuasa has teamed up with manga artists Taiyo Matsumoto to create a series of eccentric and elegant designs and the 2D hand drawn feature is packed full of music and dance.
The single interactive project in this category was Michelle and Uri Kranot’s “The Hangman at Home,” inspired by the eponymous poem by Carl Sandburg on which he asks: “What does the hangman think about when he goes home at night from work?”
The VR experience builds on the Kranot’s 2017 installation “Nothing Happens” which questioned the role of the spectator by inviting the individual to participate in an event.
The project – which received development funding from French cultural body CNC – comprises of three experiences: a short animated 2D film, a single user VR experience and a multiuser VR experience, that requires at least four users to roam freely on a floorspace of approximately 100 sq. ft.
The experience asks its audience to take on a number of challenges that they may find difficult. In a test run, Uri Kranot explained they asked a group of librarians to virtually burn some books.
“Even virtually this was viewed as a violent act for librarians – they started negotiating – until one of them took responsibility,” he recalled.
The end destination for this ambitious project is festivals while an ‘at home’ version is also planned for VR headsets.