Soyuzmultfilm 2016
digital 2d and cut-out animation, 4'15"
Direction, design: Olesya Shchukina
Music: Lev Slepner
Animation: Chenghua Yang, Nadya Mira, Maria Gavrilenko, Roman Kozakov
The little squirrel finds something they have never seen before.
The film was commissioned by Soyuzmultfilm studio for their anthology Happy Merry-Go-Round. The film made its journey around the world, and was screened in French cinemas (distributed in France by Folimage studio). It also appeared on DVD: Best of Anima Special Kids, Trésors Plein Ma Poche.
The film started with a risograph postcard I printed back in 2014 to send to my friends and family for New Years and Christmas. A year later I posted a scan of it on Facebook. To my surprise the art director of Soyuzmultfilm studio posted a comment asking me to write a script based on it.

I think some of my friends and my parents still have the postcard

I was very busy working as a background artist on a TV series project but I finally came up with the idea. A year and a half later it made it on to real film.

Working on the postcard: from the sketch to the final image in Photoshop

I wrote the script very quickly but the storyboard and animatic took me a lot of time, the animatic alone probably going through around 20 versions. As a reference, I used some of Prokofiev's musical score from Peter and the Wolf and a piano piece by Rachmaninoff.

Concept art

A page from the very first storyboard

Character research

Everything was drawn and animated in Adobe Flash (now Adobe Animate). It wasn't always ideal because I used a lot of camera movement and it was really hard to set them up in Flash. It nevertheless helped me out when I had to add some close ups during the final edit. As it was all vector I didn't need to redraw anything.
I grew up in Russia and snow is very familiar to me. I enjoy winter landscapes, especially if it's frosty out and the trees are covered with snow. I mixed shapes and lines to create my winter backgrounds.

Forest background for a panoramic scene

The animation was a mix of a drawn animation and cut-out technique. All the characters were built like puppets but the tails, the legs and the arms were drawn for every frame, the movement looks smooth. Chenghua Yang was the main animator and she gave a lot of herself to the squirrel character.
The compositing was done in After Effects. I wanted it to look like a risograph print as the film started with the risograph postcard. Everything was purposefully drawn in four very very bright colors. It helped to separate the final sequence images into two different layers, one for red and one for blue. Then I used the multiply effect and moved one of the layers a little bit, so it doesn't look too perfect (I find this aspect of risograph printing quite charming). Eugene Boitsov helped me a lot with the scripts in After Effects.

Before compositing

After compositing

Risograph print effect test that I showed to Eugene to illustrate my needs

The music was composed by Lev Slepner, a frequent collaborator with Yulia Aronova. I really like what he did for Yulia's films and The Sled seemed to be a perfect opportunity for our own collaboration.
I recorded the voices in St Petersburg. I asked 8 year old Vasilisa, the daughter of a friend, to help me with the little squirrel. On the left you can see the dialogue that I wrote for her.
Vasilisa turned out to be a perfect squirrel and easily made it through 90 minute voice recording session. 
The film was premiered in Flux Factory's roof cinema in summer 2016. A real joy that so many people have watched it since!

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