Brazilian director Alê Abreu and his team gave Annecy audiences a first look of his much anticipated new feature film “Perlimps” on Thursday, also sharing his fluid storyboarding process and the methods he uses to create his unique visual style.
The Oscar-nominated director of “Boy and the World” and his assistant director Viviane Guimaraes spoke via video link from Brazil while the film’s executive producer, Ernesto Soto Canny joined moderator Denis Walgenwitz and a live audience for the presentation in Annecy.
The film is set in the rainbow saturated Enchanted Forest and tells the story of two secret agents – a wolf boy and a bear girl – who work for enemy kingdoms and are dispatched to the forest on the same mission: to save the mysterious Perlimps from terrible giants that have surrounded the forest.
“In appearance and in strength they are the opposite of each other – one’s kingdom is more about gadgets and technology the other’s is more romantic embracing myths and nature. But they will need to join forces with each other to succeed. A great part of the screenplay was to play off these personalities,” said Abreu.
While Abreu penned the script, Guimaraes explained that while they worked on drafts of the film for financiers and the producers, the story, characters and even the look of the film have continued to evolve throughout the production process.
“Because the story exists in Ale’s imagination he doesn’t need to write it down, because he’s at ease with the images. For him it’s easier to work on the storyboard and write the dialogue as it goes along,” she revealed.
According to Guimaraes, this process involved Abreu explaining the story to a team of five or six storyboard artists over a period of four months and splitting the film into sequences. Post-It notes with story detail or editing suggestions were then attached to each scene.
“That enabled us to throw out bits that were confusing, and strengthened the bits we wanted to keep,” she added.
During the first stage of the production 12 artists traveled 190 miles from São Paulo to live in the middle of the Santo Antonio Mountains to be in a quiet place where everyone could focus. “I also wanted to imbue them with a feeling of being in a forest,” Abreu added.
Hands-on Abreu was also responsible for the art direction and he added that there was no color of the rainbow that was off limits as colors and prisms of light guided the animation’s look. “I’ve used the entire color spectrum!” he added.
The film’s tropical hued impressionist backgrounds involved creating random paint smears in different colors to form the basis of each scene, Abreu revealed in a behind-the-scenes video.
These backgrounds were scanned and drawn digitally with only certain elements outlined -– “A trunk here, a leaf there” – while the rest of the background is left out of focus.
The animation, which is being produced by São Paulo-based production company Buriti Filmes, uses hand drawn on paper and 2D/3D computer techniques.
Abreu explained that he was able to maintain the hand drawn look by flipping between layers in Photoshop as if he were using layers of paper.
The director added that he was also keen to hold each drawing for three or four frames – a similar ratio to Anime – to preserve the action lines and the fluidity of movement: “I was keen to keep things as gestural as possible,” he said.
When the pandemic struck, the team disbanded from their artist’s residence and switched to remote working practices from all corners of Brazil and globally, and both the compositing and the composing were done virtually.
A virtual meeting room was set up with the film’s score composer – the body percussionist Andre Hosoi – who used different parts of his body, electronic music and Chinese instruments to create the film’s unique sound.
Abreu estimated that the 80-minute project, which is being co-produced by Sony Pictures International Productions and the film arm of Brazilian TV giant Globo, will be complete in nine months. It is scheduled for a 2022 release date.