2016 has been a strong year for animation, and one of the unheralded aspects of the year is the great indie films. April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday, Phantom Boy and Miss Hokusai are all Oscar-worthy films. On September 30th, US audiences got another strong offering to add to this club: the French film, Long Way North, previously reviewed on the website here.
As the review was some time ago, I thought I would give the film a shout-out in the hope that a few of you might seek it out. So here is ‘What You Should Know Before Seeing: Long Way North’:
- Long Way North is the feature film debut of director Rémi Chayé. Chayé previously worked as an assistant director of The Secret of Kells and in the storyboard/animation department of The Painting. About his time on Kells, Chayé said:
“I realized fully what a feature-length film was, how it is to have a team working over several countries, etc. It was an amazing experience”
- The artistic style of Long Way North is very unique. It is a 2D technique with bright color blocks. I have never seen an animated film quite like it. The production was 100% European (90% French), and they formed a studio in Paris with 15 layout artists, 20 animators and 20 cel painters. It’s so refreshing in 2016 to hear about animation being done this way. Chayé said:
“The animators worked with lines, as usual. But the cel painters- the ones who finish the drawings and give them their final appearance, the one you see on the screen- had to reinterpret the animators’ drawings by keeping only color fills, Our team was very talented and motivated. It was exhilarating.”
- In addition, Chayé kept the character designs very simple so that the audience would focus on the emotions of the characters. He said:
“What interests me is the emotion. I want animators to spend time on the characters’ emotions. I don’t want them to spend time tracing details or pulleys. That’s why the graphic style is so simple. No buttons, no laces, no folds in the clothes. So for the ship, the train, the dog sleds, the carriages, we made 3D objects”
- Get ready to love the lead character, Sacha. She works as a character because she is bold and embraces adventure but she’s also a bit of a diva. She’s not a clichéd warrior woman you might see in these kinds of movies. You see a character arc and real growth from her.
- Chayé was inspired by Jules Verne novels, the paintings of Gustave Doree and the adventures of British explorer Ernest Shackleton. Sacha goes on an adventure to the North Pole to redeem her grandfather who was lost trying to sail to the arctic. Especially once they arrive at the icebergs things get very exciting!
As far as my thoughts on the film it is worth seeing for the visuals alone. It is unlike any animated film I have ever seen and so refreshing in this age of CG films. It is a very strong first effort for Rémi Chayé. I really liked the music he used and, like I said, Sacha as a character. It also doesn’t overstay its welcome at a lean 80 minutes.
There were some negatives to the film: the story is a bit predictable and I thought the segments on the boat lasted a little too long. But the film is still definitely worth checking out and supporting, if you can find it near you. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you hear about it come Oscar season and I can’t wait to see what Rémi Chayé has in store for us next!
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden