ROBOT DREAMS UPDATE: Our film has its North American Premiere at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) next Tuesday, September 12th at 9:00 pm. If you're in Toronto, please consider buying a ticket and attending.
The film is European in origin—a Spanish-French co-production—but it has universal appeal. All the more so because there is no dialogue, making it understandable by all. It's not a silent movie, though. In case you’re not familiar with the movie, here is Wikipedia’s basic outline: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_Dreams_(film)
One small error Wikipedia makes is that the dog protagonist does not BUILD himself a robot companion—he instead ORDERS one from an infomercial on late-night TV. Which, to me, is hilarious. The movie covers the love, trials, tribulations, and tragedy of their ensuing relationship, all set in a richly detailed cartoon version of 1980s New York City; one populated with animals.
It's well worth seeing, especially if you love 2D animation. This movie goes a long way to keeping that older form alive; it is fully animated, not done as flat cutouts moved around. Graphic line drawings by their very nature have an intrinsic charm and appeal, as they activate a more abstract side of our minds. That's one aspect of what I always loved about the classic Disney movies: the charm of beautiful line drawings coming alive in motion. There's nothing like it! The very flatness of the drawings and moving color shapes seen in 2D—as distinct from the more fully lit and fleshed-out 3D animation approach—is what I have been missing. Now this is not exactly a Disney-style film, far from it, and there’s nothing old-fashioned about it. It's a somewhat extended and elaborated version of the core of Sarah Varon's graphic novel, on which it was based. The director, Pablo Berger, who will be in attendance, has stated that the movie is "a love letter to the New York City of the 1980s"--the city he knew when he lived there. I was tasked with aiding Pablo and the other key builder of this movie, Jose Luis Agreda, in fleshing out their conceptions for the backgrounds. It was to be a mostly realistic style of background drawing; not from the Maurice Noble/Warner Brothers style of wonky exaggeration. This would ground things and provide a suitable backdrop for the more cartoony antics of the characters.
For most of the background settings, such as the dog’s apartment seen in many shots and moods throughout the movie, I was given very specific notes, guidelines, and references, and then had to integrate all these into final perspective drawings—even inking them in a few cases. In other situations, such as the junkyard scene in the film (Robot tragically ends up there at one point, but you’ll have to see the movie to find out the details!) there was “carte blanche” and I could create something in a more open-ended fashion. I also worked on part of the poster campaign, helping create the poster that shows Dog and Robot on an NYC ferry as we look over their shoulders at the skyline.
Many extremely talented artists worked long and hard on every aspect of this movie and I think you’ll enjoy seeing the rich landscape they created. In fact, so much material (character designs, settings, ideas, etc.) was created for the movie that really there should be more episodes—or an art book. For example, I loved seeing all the character designs being created—spoofs of 1980s NYC fashion and character types.
Anyway, despite being closely involved with the film as it gestated, I still haven’t seen the final cut myself, so I’m very much looking forward to it! Here is the official TIFF listing and to buy tickets: https://tiff.net/events/robot-dreams