Les Vacances de Mr. Tator
This little directly-drawn animation that was created in a few days, using the National Film Board of Canada’s McLaren’s Workshop app for the iPad. With this app, you can create animations in three techniques – or emulations thereof – pioneered by Norman McLaren: direct drawing on film, paper cut-outs and synthetic sounds.
This animation uses the ‘direct drawing workshop’, that turned out to be quite useful*: you can scratch white lines in a black background with a fine tool and a more coarse one (resembling the needle and razor blades McLaren used) and colour the lines in afterwards.
Frame-by-frame animation in this basic technique requires every frame to be drawn individually. Even a short film requires thousands of drawings. Given the time constraints, I cheated a bit by slowing some sequences down to a lower frame rate in the final editing.
The story is based on loosely improvising on four given keywords: ‘Christmas’, ‘Europe’, ‘Culture’ and ‘Dictators wearing shorts’.
We see a dictator wearing a huge Junta cap and red shorts fulminating against what appears to be the wide open sea. He’s standing on a balcony of a small, austere-looking concrete building that adorns a tiny island (that, as tradition requires, has one palm tree growing on it). Eventually the sun sets and the dictator calls it a day, returning inside for the evening. He switches on his TV and by chance picks up a satellite channel that broadcasts a European channel.
He sees a commentator fulminating against Father Christmas – and the dictator is elated to see another person communicating in the same style as himself. He decides that he has to move to the country where his soul mate lives, and we see him take off in what looks like a Thunderbird aircraft (complete with palm tree flipping aside as it did for Thunderbird 2). He flies halfway around the globe and descends by parachute to what turns out to be Paris, where he lands in a Parisian backyard. Here we find out that our dictator is only 15 cm high: the lady who finds him merrily drops him on a tiny island in her goldfish bowl … adorned with a tiny, austere-looking concrete building. However, now the dictator finds that he has won an audience: the two gold fish who also occupy the bowl and who are very pleased with the entertainment his ranting offers.
The title Les Vacances de Mr. Tator is a wink to the great French director Jacques Tati and the whole thing is set to one of Claude Debussy’s piano preludes called General Lavine – eccentric.
* sadly, the direct drawing part has been suffering from a colour picker bug for the iPad Pro, and despite having been in email contact with the nfb.ca developers, this hasn’t been fixed yet.