Stowaways on the Ark

Very little animation has been produced in Germany in the past. Now that is changing with the production of a feature length cartoon. Harald Kraut, one of the animators, gives his view of the production.

There was not much happening in animation in Germany until recently, and no studio has produced animation of an international standard. Anyone interested in good animation had to go to England or the USA, which is usually what the better German animators did and still do. In the past we had Oskar Fischinger contributing to Fantasia, Andreas Deja is head of today’s Disney animators, and there are some other less famous but very good artists. They all left Germany to find work in animation.

Harald Kraut supervising stop-motion shoot of the finished model. Click the pic to see a larger version

This may be the reason Germany never really developed an animation industry. Of course, there have been a few attempts, but none of them ever reached the international screens. Even most of our TV commercials are made in Great Britain.

I had my first experience of professional animation when I went to England and worked with John Halas and Harold Whitaker, the knowledge gamed there has proved very useful on our present feature Stowaways on the Ark.

This film is going to change the situation entirely. At long last we have set up an animation studio capable of full animation, the first in Germany.

Wolfgang Urchs gave a storyboard of Candide, by Voltaire, to the producers Dr. Ute Koll and Dr. Michael Schoemann. After deciding it was too complex the producers asked Wolfgang Urchs to work out an international story for children, possibly based on a well known-tale.
Wolfgang came up with the idea of a couple of woodworms entering Noah’s Ark by chance and causing a lot of trouble. In fact this may be the reason why archaeologists never found the ark!

With the backing of Paramount, UIP and ZDF (a German TV station) the producers went ahead and put together a very fine team, the like of which has never been seen before in Germany, including some of the best artists available.

Our background artist is Juan Japl. Juan previously worked with Wolfgang Peterson on The Neverending Stoiy and Enemy Mine, drawing the storyboards and making some character designs. For Ark, Juan has produced some amazingly skilful paintings, with an incredible, moody atmosphere, which enhances the scenes. He is a master in applying light to his drawings in a way I have not seen before. The backgrounds look very Biblical. Juan is also a very modest person, and as he would not like me to write that, just forget what you have read.

Wolfgang Urchs has included some very fine special effects in the production, a few are well known but others are used here for the first time. Since Noah’s Ark deals with a lot of water, we had to come up with a believable way of showing it, which at the same time does not involve a lot of work. As you know, realistic looking water is not the easiest thing to animate. After much trial and error, we eventually came up with a water effect which I believe has not been seen before in an animated film. This is also true of our clouds. Due to the many talents of Juan Japl and some camera trickery we have such realistic moving clouds, you will not believe your eyes! We also use shadows throughout the film in an interesting way. In order to save work for the cel painters we add both the shadows that the characters cast on the backgrounds, and the body shadows, with double exposure. This does not increase the camera work greatly because double exposures are already being used for other effects.

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