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Evolutionary IDEAS

The Dutch animator, Paul Driessen, was in the city recently. He talks about his passion: animation.


PAUL DRIESSEN has come a long way from being an animator for commercials to one who has made over 20 award-winning animation films. Dreissen was in the city recently to participate in the fourth `Week with the Masters', organised by Toonz Animation, India.

It was not as though Dreissen had his life all mapped out. Holland, where he grew up, had no tradition of animation. It was an ad in the newspaper about a studio on the lookout for artists that changed the course of Driessen's life. "Though I had no idea about what the job entailed, I applied for it." He started with animation for commercials. "I didn't know a thing about animation, beyond Disney. And had to look up the word in the dictionary and refer books." For over two years, Driessen worked at the studio, learning the ropes of the trade. "We had no storyboards back then." But a little later, the studio closed down. "And I was hunting for jobs again."

Soon, he found himself on board the `Yellow Submarine' (of Beatles fame), directed by George Dunning. Driessen flew over to London and began work on this feature animation film. "I worked for a year, went back to Holland and strove hard to get my first film subsidised." Dreissen made `The Story of Little John Brady' in 1970. "For me, animation is the pursuit of individual expression," he explains. "Because it is so free, you can do anything."

The next stopover was Canada, where he worked for the National Film Board (NFB). "The NFB being a State-funded institution, it was easy to obtain funds for films and find work too." The NFB's animations were known for their originality and artistic repertoire. And Driessen let his mind walk unharnessed through the corridors of imagination. "When I came to Montreal in the early 70s, NFB was at its peak. But soon the Communist regime fell, and things went from bad to worse. There was no money for us in this work," he recalls. Driessen began freelancing and continued to jet set between Holland and Montreal. Japan and Spain figured tangentially. "Life was tough, but satisfying".

Elaborating on his work, Driessen says, "An animator needs to be aware of the audience's interest. It is challenging to keep them glued to the screen and even more challenging for me, as an animator, to see if I can explore new terrains on the technical front and go beyond my limits." If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it's no wonder that Dreissen has chosen to dispense with them in his work. When you watch his animation, `3 Misses', which won him Academy nomination, what strikes you most is the skill and finesse with which he has woven three narratives into the same tapestry - that of three different situations linked by a single thread. In `3 Misses', it is Cinderella's Prince who finds Snow White in the woods. Explains Dreissen: "I use fairy tales and Biblical stories. When most people know the story, they know what's coming next. It's then that I give them something to think about - a twist in the climax." Wacky sound effects add to the predominantly non-verbal nature of his films. Driessen's narratives are complex with a melange of images that grip the viewer's imagination. His eye for detail and knack for linking disparate stories into a cohesive whole is evident in `The End of the World in Four Season', `2D or Not 2D and `3 Misses' to name a few. His deceptively loose and light drawing style is what makes his works par excellence.

For a lot of people, animation in olden days, says Driessen, was all about animating merely the body. However, today, computer software and cell-layering technique give ample scope for innovation and provide flexibility. "Each body part can be animated separately." Adds Driessen, "I am doing what I love most - animating characters. I work on ideas that are evolutionary".

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Graphics: Manoj

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