Kondo and Tsutsumi Talk Dam Keeper Short

The Dam Keeper, Oscar shortlisted for best animated short, Annie-nominated, and winner of 25 festival awards, blends traditional hand-drawn animation with lush brushstrokes to bring a Dutch-inspired folk tale to life (watch the making of featurette below) . It was directed by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi (Monsters UniversityToy Story 3). Narrated by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen (Sherlock,  The Killing), the short is set in a desolate future, one small town’s survival is solely due to a large windmill dam that acts as a fan to keep out poisonous clouds. Despite bullying from classmates and an indifferent public, the dam’s operator, Pig, works tirelessly to keep the sails spinning in order to protect the town.

Bill Desowitz: Let’s begin with the origin of The Dam Keeper.

Dice Tsutsumi: Robert and I worked together as art directors at Pixar for some time on Toy Story 3 and Monsters University. Robert was set director and I was lighting and color art director and we always worked well together. But when we were finishing up Monsters University, I thought it would be great to take this partnership further. I proposed making a short film together without have a story yet. We’d never directed before, we’d never written a story before, let’s figure this out together.

BD: So how did you come up with Dam Keeper?

Robert Kondo: While we were at Pixar, for about a year, we started writing together in our spare time. It was a struggle learning how to write and pushing our relationship to the next level. After five attempts, we stood back and looked at our common threads to these five different versions. We found an unsung hero character that kept showing up and also a polluted world, so we continued to strive to tell a character who changed the way they saw the world. So those were the tentpoles creatively of the story we wanted to tell overall.

DT: And especially the moment when we came up with the initial idea ofThe Dam Keeper was when Robert mentioned The Little Dutch Boy fairy tale from the Netherlands.

RK: The story of the boy who plugs his finger into the hole that he found on the wall of the dam to save the town. So this was a simple story that wasn’t as complicated as the others we came up with and The Little Dutch Boy was a good starting point.

DT: We basically said what if it was our character’s responsibility everyday to save the town.

RK: But nobody knows.

BD: What prompted you to do it hand-drawn?

DT: We’re both artists who do 2D painting…

RK: We both come from an illustration background. And we both paint and illustrate very similarly, working together for six or seven years. And Dice had actually done a short for a project he had done called Sketch Travel, in which he did two frames-per-second. It was almost like an illustrated children’s book so in the beginning we said if there was two of us we could do double the amount of frames. But, of course, it took a lot more than just the two of us.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Movies, Oscar, Production Design, Shorts, Tech, Trailers

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