The Sundance Film Festival is currently running strong not in the mountains of Park City but in its 2nd year of a virtual only edition. Like last year, we are interviewing as many of the animators as possible and today we have a special treat for our roto-readers. Not only are we talking to the creator of the animated short Rendang of Death but are getting introduced to a fantastic animated studio, Percolate Galactic.
Tell us about the Percolate Galactic.
I’m Ryan Jackson, and I wrote the story and script for Rendang of Death. I co-founded Percolate Galactic in 2012 alongside my wife, Samantha Jackson, in Jakarta, Indonesia. We moved to Indonesia in 2009 to wait out the financial crisis, and many crises later, here we remain! Percolate started off as a hode-podge of poster designs, #brand and #content nonsense, and weirdo gifs we made to stay sane while making said #conent. In 2017, we were able to do what we always wanted to do, which was try to make a proper animated short. That short was called Terrorvision 3000, and it set the stage for us going into ever stranger areas of animation.
We currently have 37 people working together as a gloriously odd family (in the Vin Diesel sense of the word).
What do you think is special about 2D animation?
We do (digitally) traditional hand-drawn animation, under the leadership of our animation director (the immortal Michaela ‘Mika’ Levi) and our senior animator (the infamous Andri ‘Yujin Sick’ Abdi, who both led production on Rendang of Death. For what makes hand-drawn 2D so special, I think it is the intimacy and physicality of the craft. An animator is responsible for giving life to something from thin air — a blank screen becomes a living thing, with all that that entails. The animator gives them the physics and mechanics of movement, but also the body language and expressions that create emotion. When making a film, a group of people join together and create a breathing world, from rules they all collectively agree to. It’s the most incredible mixture of the creative and the physical.
Tell us about Rendang of Death?
In mid-2019 we had a gap in our production schedule and we began brainstorming on something to make while we waited for the next commercial project to start. I have been obsessed with the work of animator Christy Karacas for most of my adult life, and doubly so with his pre-Adult Swim short Bar Fight. During one of the pitch meetings, I brought up the idea of what Bar Fight might look like as a piece of Indonesian animation — and then began acting out fighting moves to describe plot points. People seemed okay with the idea, but probably were humoring me to get me to stop doing wrestling poses.
Once the concept was in place, it was decided that the film should take place in a style of restaurant beloved in Indonesia — the local nasi Padang. When you eat nasi Padang, plates are simply brought to your table and you take what you want — kind of like dimsum, but also not at all like dimsum. Most importantly: when the restaurant’s food is gone for the day, it’s gone, so you get what you get. The most popular dish (and assuredly, really that good!) is a curried beef dish called rendang, which can often go fast.
What if two bros suddenly realized there were two of them and one piece of rendang left? Well, probably not what happens in the film, but still.
How did you get the idea for it and did one particular artist work on it or was it a group effort?
Our initial art direction was created by Andri Abdi, who ended-up doing the scene-by-scene direction of the film — but once the floodgates opened, I think it’s quite possible that every person in Percolate Galactic was involved in making this film. Mika organized the production, our virtuoso animator Sop drew some of the intenser anime-inspired fight scenes, many of our animators like Weellsen and Hanjip and Brenda looked at the boards and literally went ‘what if we did this, but then changed it and took it way too far’. The music was composed by our animator Dinda and one of our asset designers, Jati. The entire voice cast are Percolate Galactic members, including the accounting team. We had never done foley work before, so our film team sat down and created sound effects for the entire movie. If the film succeeded, it’s because 35 people all left a piece of joyful insanity in it.
What advice would you have for young aspiring animators?
Animation is whatever you want it to be, and nobody can tell you you’re wrong. Make stuff. Make for the sake of making, make stuff that makes you happy. If you can, find other people who like making stuff similar to the stuff you like. You’re living through a minor societal apocalypse and who knows how many you’ve got to go still, the only thing you can do is try to put better things into the world.
Unasked for shout-out: If you’re attending Sundance, watch MAKASSAR IS A CITY FOR FOOTBALL FANS by the brilliant Indonesian filmmaker Khozy Rizal! Indonesia has one of the most vibrant and off-the-radar animation AND film scenes on Earth, and we’re so grateful that Sundance is giving us a chance to be seen by so many people!