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Animating Max & Co - Kristien Vandenbussche

25 februari 2008
Max & co, winner of the audience award at Annecy 2007, has recently hit theatres across Belgium. One of the animators who made a big contribution to this film is Flemish stop motion specialist Kristien Vanden Bussche.
'I have been working on this film for 10 months', says Kristien, currently based in Grimbergen near Brussels. For the most part of 2006, she lived and worked in Romont, a small town in Switzerland that received over a 100 guest workers while Max & co was shot in the former Tetrapak buildings. 'We worked on 27 sets simultaneously. I am very pleased with the end result. The puppets really have their own personality and we managed to maintain a unity within the animation even though we were so many. To me too, this is magical. And the audience seems to like it, too. At the Annecy festival, people were cheering and applauding for quite a long time after the premiere.' Max & co certainly has a unique and original look. 'Directors Sam and Fred Guillaume opted for a really natural style, not at all cartoonesque, and this works wonderfully well', says Kristien. For Max & co she worked with foam latex and silicone covered puppets made by Mackinnon and Saunders, who also provided Tim Burton with a cast for Corpse Bride. Kristien mainly worked on scenes involving emotions, one of her strong points. 'One of the scenes I animated, for instance, was the one where Rodolfo (Max's opponent) shows feelings of remorse about the cunning plan he is executing together with Martin the mad scientist.' For Kristien, stop motion animation is a bit like acting: 'You try to come across in a convincing and plausible way.'Kristien Vanden Bussche working on Max & Co In 1996, she was the first one in 15 years at the Royal Arts Academy in Ghent to make a graduation film in stop motion, Momo. 'I shot it in the building that Raoul Servais was using. From a distance, he kept an eye on it and afterwards he told me it was a very beautiful film.' Because she wanted to continue working with puppets, she moved to London and started to work with Filmfair Animation on The Wombles. A year later she moved to Manchester. For Cosgrove Hall she animated series like Rotten Ralph, Bill and Ben and Fetch The Vet. And in Amsterdam she put a soul into the famous Miffy & Friends. Right after Max & co, Kristien worked on Sunday Drive, a short film by José Manuel Ribeiro shot at Beast Animation in Brussels - Ribeiro won the Cartoon d'Or in 2000 for A Suspeita. Currently she is working at nWave, also located in Brussels. nWave recently presented the 3D sensation Fly Me To The Moon. 'They are very good on the technical level of animation and I can complement that with my capacities. But I must say it is quite an adjustment to work on a computer all day instead of working hands-on with puppets. With computers, you have to pay more attention to keeping the animation natural. In my experience, there is more feeling involved working with stop motion.' Kristien Vanden Bussche working on Sunday Drive As a stop motion specialist Kristien is not really worried about the future of stop motion animation. 'I am always optimistic. When I was still in school, there were already rumours that computers were going to take over completely. After all, photography has not destroyed the art of painting.' Since she moved back to Belgium after such a long time abroad, Kristien feels she is getting ready to start working on a few projects of her own. 'I have been living in Belgium for about a year now and I really want to pick up some projects that I put aside for a long time.' Max & CoMax & Co is a Swiss coproduction with France, the Uk and Belgium. Ghent-based Creative Conspiracy (CC) played an important role in several aspects of the (post)production. Also check out the interview with Luc Van Driessche of CC. 'Making of' videos of Max & co: