FLANDERS @ ANIMA (2) - Bruno Wouters
16 februari 2009
The Brussels international animation film festival Anima takes place at Flagey from February 20 to 28. Flandersanimation.be highlights some of the Flemish animators that are represented through their work. One of the TV series presented at the Animation Night (February 21) is Kika & Bob, directed by Vincent Bal and Colette Bothof. To finish this series, producer Submarine Channel could rely on the vast experience of Flemish animator Bruno Wouters (60), who travelled to Singapore to supervise the animation studio.
'The Golden Era for animation supervisors in the Far East is over', says Bruno Wouters, and of all people, he should know. In 1994 he travelled to Seoul for the first time. Since then he has been going back and forth between Belgium and China, India, Korea... Two years ago he was called in to help out on the production of Kika & Bob in Singapore. But today he is home to stay and to work on his own projects. team Seoul'My father recently died, it had quite an impact on me. You know it will happen one day, and still it is very confronting once this day comes. It inspired me to start working on a short that I'd really like to finish. People have been very enthusiast about the animatic that I presented.' Initially, Wouters studied painting at Sint-Lukas in Brussel but soon he was drawn to animation. In 1973 he was introduced to Belgian animation film director Picha. Wouters worked as a tracer on Tarzoon, Shame of the Jungle (1975), as assistant animator on The Missing Link (1980) and as animator on The Big Bang (1987). A couple of years ago he animated some sequences for Picha's Snow White, The Sequel (2007). 'It was a relief to work purely as an animator again. After years of supervising, I had no other worries than just finishing my sequences. The film did not well, it was not good to be honest, but I was pleased with the work that I had done on it'. Working with Picha in the early seventies, Wouters ended up in Paris, working on different smaller projects. 'I was never out of a job. Until the early nineties, there was always work for animators working on paper. Then came the computer era, and things slowly changed. At a certain moment I was asked to go and do some supervising in Korea. I was supposed to work there for three months, but I ended up working on the project for a whole year.' The job included much more than mere supervising, Wouters quickly learnt: 'I also had to bridge the gap between Paris and Korea, to keep both sides happy and to make absolutely sure the project would be finished on time.' During his stays in the Far East, Wouters has seen a lot of colleagues come and go. 'You really have to be up for it, I have known people that freaked out working there: because of the food, or because their animators did not work or did not respect any timing... It is important to be sensitive and open towards the society you live in. There are some Flemish animators who decided to stay in China and married a Chinese woman, most of the time their assistant or interpret'. In 1996, Wouters travelled to the Far East for the second time. In Shanghai, he worked on a French tv series. 'By that time the drawings were scanned in and the colouring was done by computer. Two years earlier in Korea, we still worked on film: I had four teams of 40 animators drawing on cels plus about 150 girls colouring them. In China, things went faster by computer but the most difficult part of the job remained the same: to obtain a result that is decent. You have to realise that for 9 out of 10 it is an ordinary job, they would not be drawing in their free time, it simply pays the rent. They get paid by the piece, so the more they produce, the more they are paid.' Back in Europe, after finishing the title sequence of Belleville Rendez-Vous in 2001, Wouters took on an offer to go and work in Portugal as an animation director for an animation feature: Le général, le chien et les oiseaux. Although the producing company Neuroplanet went bankrupt, Wouters managed to keep his animation team together and they managed to finish off the film. 'It was my intention to keep working in Portugal with this small team in our own little studio. But because of an assignment that did not get paid, I had to give up the team and I decided to go to India. It was a pity that I could not continue my work in Portugal because I had built up a lot of contacts. But luckily, I was still able to finish The Writer, a short directed by Frits Standaert. I did the animation for it all by myself, and also the storyboarding and the lay-out'. Kika & Bob In ten years a lot has changed in the animation industry in the Far East. 'Because of the financial demands of broadcasters in the West, earnings for animation supervisors have dropped by 40%. There is even a tendency to not send a supervisor at all. Consequently, things go wrong from time to time and after a while a supervisor is sent after to try and fix the situation. That is more or less what happened with Kika and Bob: they failed to stick to the planning and it got out of control. Of course, for Submarine Channel it was the very first time they cooperated with a partner in the Far East. Through the people of Walking The Dog they got in touch with me. Eventually, things worked out fine, we caught up with the planning and we managed to improve the quality. What was interesting about working on Kika and Bob, was that the two directors did not have an animation background so they brought on another perspective. This also meant I had to correct them sometimes, but on the other hand I found it very refreshing because in animation you tend to cling to a certain way of storytelling.'Today, Bruno Wouters is back in Belgium. 'For now, I want to stay here and work on my own projects. In 1992, my short The End Again (produced by S.O.I.L.) was officially selected for the competition at the Annecy festival. It did really well but it took me a while to be interested in making another short. Right now, I am busy putting together a file to get my short funded. When I animate something myself it has to be excellent, time is not that much of an issue then. I just love doing it, no job beats animating...' The End Again - copyright S.O.I.L./Bruno Wouters