January 22, 2014 12:10pm PT by Carolyn Giardina
Oscar Crafts: Animated Shorts Nominee 'Room on the Broom' Mixes CG With Miniature Sets
Room on the Broom earned an animated short Oscar nomination by combining clever characters and an inventive look with a story based on the popular children's book of the same name, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It also brought together a voice cast including Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, Martin Clunes, Simon Pegg, Timothy Spall, David Walliams and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine).
Directed by Max Lang (who previously earned an Oscar nomination for 2009 animated short The Gruffalo) and Jan Lachauer, the film has already been honored with a Cristal award for best TV production at the Annecy Int'l Animated Film Festival, a Children's BAFTA, and Annie and British Animation Award nominations.
In the Oscar competition, Room on the Broom is nominated alongside Feral, a story that explores the topic of abandoned children; Disney's Get a Horse, which pays homage to Mickey Mouse and his gang; Mr. Hublot, about a man forced to face change; and Possessions, a Japanese short about a man who is lost in the mountains and discovers a small shrine.
Room on the Broom tells the story of a kind witch who invites a collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat. The gang ultimately learns to work together and saves the witch from a dragon.
"I loved the characters and story, but as a filmmaker it is important to find a personal connection," said Lang, who started to make shorts with co-director Lachauer when they were students at Germany's Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg. "I had just become a dad, and my wife and I were adjusting to being parents. I remember so strongly when my brother was born and you love him but know there is going to be some changes. That is what this is about -- a family growing together and changing."
Said Lachauer: "The characters that joined the family are so different -- the frog, the dog -- and find their place in the group, even though at first glance [the animals are skeptical of each other]."
"You can reshape your world where there is room for everyone; I think that is a beautiful message," Lang added.
On a budget of $2.4 million, the 25-minute short was made with 3D computer animation with some miniature sets at Studio Soi in Ludwigsburg, Germany. "I love that you feel the hand-crafting in the sets; they're not mathematically perfect and this gives it a charm and personality," said Lang. "For some of the trees, they actually used bristles from actual brooms to make tiny twigs; in one scene in a forest, the needles on the ground are spices." Set building supervisors and set dressing credits go to Studio Soi co-founder Klaus Morschheuser with Katja Moll.
Room on the Broom was produced by Magic Light Pictures, the U.K. company behind The Gruffalo and 2012 best animated feature Oscar nominee Chico & Rita. It has already aired on the BBC in the U.K. and in additional markets.