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Globetrotters - Kris Van Alphen

28 januari 2008
The ‘Globetrotters’ column will profile on a regular basis Flemish animation professionals working abroad. The fifth to receive a portrait is Kris Van Alphen.
LOCATION Berlin, GermanyAGE 43EDUCATION Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Ghent - worked with Don Bluth, Paul Driessen, Bob BlechmanFIRST RECOLLECTION OF AN ANIMATED MOVIE Bambi triggered it all... FAVOURITE ANIMATION SHORT There are so many... A Soldier's Tale by Bob Blechman for instance, and Elbowing by Paul Driessen, The secret of Nimh by Don Bluth,... They were the people I looked up to when I was studying at the Academy.FAVOURITE ANIMATION FEATURE My Neighbour Totoro, The Yellow Submarine.PREFERRED ANIMATION TECHNIQUE drawn animation When did it occur to you that you wanted to make animated films?I started quite early... Once I had seen Bambi as a little kid, somehow subconsciously I must have known that this was totally my cup of tea. At the age of 12, I started experimenting with Super 8 and I made my first animations with it. I remember my brother buying big sheets of transparant plastic and a little manual which explained how you could make your own animation movies.Like other animation graduates, after finishing your studies you immediately went abroad in search of a career... First I started working on Astérix for Paris, then I went to Dublin to work for Don Bluth and after that I returned to Paris to work for Disney, they were developing Ducktales The Movie at that time. But I did not work there for more than a couple of weeks and I decided to go to the United States to pay a visit to lots of studios. Ironically, the major animation studios had just moved a great deal of their activities to Europe. But I got in touch with some smaller studios (which would pay off five years later when I started to work for Bob Blechman's The Ink tank). After 3 months in the United States, I came back and I started to work for the Dutch KRO network. I made short animations for children's programs, such as The Chicken (1990). One year later, I got in touch with Paul Driessen whom I admired a lot since I was a student. Paul started his career drawing and animating on The Yellow Submarine. He used to work totally on his own but at that time we worked with a team of three animators on his film The Water People. He gave us a lot of freedom and he was very open minded when we presented him our input. I must say that I am very influenced by his style. What I like a lot about him is that he plays with the medium itself in a very clever way. You worked for Bob Blechman short after this experience...After working with your 'idol', it is not evident to find the next step... But also thanks to Paul, in 1995 I ended up with Bob Blechman in New York. Blechman started out as an illustrator and became a well-known contributor to the New Yorker before starting a successful career in animation. I worked on an animation that was the opening sequence of a popular tv series called Caroline in the City. Afterwards I heard that this graphic sequence won an Emmy Award. It was based on the idea of a daily paper comic strip. These New York years were certainly the most rewarding in my professional life up to now.You have been living in Berlin for over ten years now, what have you been up to over there?I moved to Germany in 1996, in previous years I had worked on and off for Cartoon-Film in Berlin. In the world of animation, a lot of young people live like nomads. I don't do that any more, I have a family and have to raise two kids. My first job was to work on the tv-pilot de familie Mol de Mol, after that I took on the job of animator and lay-outer for Tobias Totz, a co-production with Flanders. Since then, I have been working as animation director for all the films by Cartoon-Film. This January, we have released our fifth 2D animation feature in 10 years. Kleiner Dodo (Little Dodo) is the best work we have presented so far, both as teamwork and in storytelling. I had to coordinate a team of about 80 animators, checking line tests and providing feedback, mostly by telephone and by email... It has become an almost administrative job. We worked a lot with animators from Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, Italy , Canada and Belgium. After one week, sales were at 170.000, which is at the same level as Laura's Star but not as good as Little Polar Bear 1, which is the most successful German Children's movie ever with over 2,7 million viewers. Little Dodo will be released in Belgium later this year. And now, you are in for a totally new adventure...Yes, we are working on Laura's Star in China. It will be made in China and entirely in 3D. So the team that worked on Little Dodo completely fell apart. This means that I will have to go to China quite a lot and that I have to master 3D animation. This summer we all got a course in Maya. There is little drawing involved in this technique, it feels more like puppet animation. The irony of it all is that the film needs a 2D look for the Chinese market. Do you have a project of your own you would like to realise?Yes, I made a teaser and one episode of Animal Square. It drew the attention of some networks but it failed to go through. I plan to rework it though. I also have some plans for animation shorts. Whether I will continue working in Berlin? Yes, there is a quite large animation industry here.