'My Life as a Zucchini' Director Developing Two Projects

Aardman co-founder Peter Lord also participated on an animation directors panel Wednesday at FMX in Stuttgart, Germany.
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Claude Barras

Claude Barras, director of the Oscar-nominated My Life as a Zucchini, said he wants to make a stop-motion version of Oedipus on Wednesday during the FMX visual effects and animation conference in Stuttgart, Germany.

Additionally, he's developing a stop-motion film based on an original story about a child living in Borneo.

In both cases, he's aiming for simplicity on a low budget (he's even considering making Oedipus without sets), something he did to great effect with My Life as a Zucchini, which was made for just $6 million and released in the U.S. by indie distributor GKIDS.

"Simplicity in a film can be an issue, but in the case of My Life as a Zucchini, it was a strength," Barras said of his film about a boy adjusting to life in an orphanage after a family tragedy. "The small budget means you have [fewer] restrictions on the theme and more freedom in your artistic direction in a film."

At FMX, Barras spoke on an international panel of animation directors that included Peter Lord, co-founder and creative director at U.K.-based Aardman Animations; Sony Pictures Animation's Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2), who most recently directed Smurfs: The Lost Village; and U.K.-based Break Thru Films' Hugh Welchman, a 2008 Oscar winner for animated short Peter and the Wolf.

Welchman received enthusiastic applause as he teased his recently completed first feature, Loving Vincent, a fully painted film about the life of Vincent Van Gogh (a cinema release is targeted for the fall). The director related that the film was made with 65,000 individual frames of oil paintings created by 124 painters and required a unique digital infrastructure with which to animate these paintings. Made in Poland, Loving Vincent took five years to produce.

During the session, the directors also talked about the emotion that must be at the heart of a successful production. Speaking of Aardman's global sensation Shaun the Sheep, Lord said, "I think there an honesty about what we do.... Empathy is so important, and to get empathy you need performance. That's everything for me." 

The Shaun the Sheep Movie earned an Oscar nomination in 2016, and a sequel is in the works, while the Shaun the Sheep TV series airs in roughly 95 countries.

Asbury agreed, emphasizing story and character. "Usually you see a little bit of yourself in a linear story; it's imperative that you have that," he said.

Lord also shared his excitement about virtual reality. Aardman made its first VR short, Special Delivery, roughly 18 months ago for Google Spotlight Stories. "I hope that we as a studio will do more," he said. "You can do amazing things with VR, it's a great frontier."

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