The Danish animation industry is in a growth spurt. For several years now, new production companies specialising in animation have been springing up all over the place. Small companies in a small nation have proved they can compete on quality and embrace international audiences.
"The key to success for Danish animation seems to lie in a combination of diverse and original storylines, youthful graphic cockiness and the implementation of cutting-edge technology," says Thomas Krag, DFI Feature Film Commissioner for children's films.
The National Film School of Denmark
The National Film School's 4½-year animation programme trains students as both animation and video game directors, the latter in partnership with DADIU (the National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment), which teaches video game design. www.filmskolen.dk and www.dadiu.dk/english
The Animation Workshop
The Animation Workshop in Viborg offers 3½-year BA programmes in Character Animation and Computer Graphics Arts. The character animator is the animation director's digital actor and the computer graphics artist is the digital set designer. www.animwork.dk
Animation Initiative 2010
The Danish Film Institute in partnership with the Danish national broadcaster DR has set up a new fund to promote the positive development of Danish animation.
In 2010 the fund will support four to eight original animated children's films in two short formats of 25 or 45 minutes. The aim is to enable a number of younger directors, who either have animation degrees or work professionally in animation but have not yet made their first feature or longer TV series, to realise short-format films, which are usually hard to get funded.
"The fund is particularly intended as a shot in the arm to new talent. It can be really hard to go from a seven-minute thesis film at the National Film School or the Animation Workshop to an animated feature. Hence, the focus is to boost the 'undergrowth' of short-format storytellers we know are out there and allow them to grow," DFI commissioner Thomas Krag says.
The Danish Film Institute is contributing 10 million kroner (approx. 1.34 million euros) to the fund, and DR is putting in 5 million kroner. The films will be broadcast on DR.
"In recent years, there has been a revolution in animation production methods. Faster and cheaper technology has made it possible for Danish production companies to gamble on more and bigger animation projects. In that respect, animation has become less of a risky business."
A New Animation Generation?
But technology alone is not enough to explain it. Another reason for the activity and creativity on the Danish animation scene right now is the huge talent pool that the industry can draw on, a new generation of young, talented animators chomping at the bit.
Talent is nurtured mainly at the National Film School's animation programme and the Animation Workshop. Separately and in collaboration, the two schools have developed specialised courses that more than measure up to international standards and give graduates an excellent launching point for a career in animation.
As Gunnar Wille, head of the National Film School's animation programme, sees it, a goaloriented strategy for the programme and a good feel for the industry's future needs and challenges are now bearing fruit. "Very early on, we decided to work with low-budget computer systems. And that's how the development has been going. Consequently, our animation directors resemble the industry the Film School is sending them into, and the industry resembles us. It's been a mutual development."
Wille certainly appears to have set the right strategy. A glance at the list of Danish animated features now in development or production reveals several first-time feature-film directors.
"It's a whole new thing to have so many new directors on the scene," Wille says. "Veterans like Jannik Hastrup ("A Tale of Two Mozzies", "The Boy Who Wanted to be a Bear", "Cirkeline") and Stefan Fjeldmark ("Help, I'm a Fish", "Terkel in Trouble", "Asterix et les Vikings") have been dominating the scene for years – right up till when Anders Morgenthaler as the first Film School animation graduate directed a feature ("Princess"). Since then, there has been a complete and massive change. Now, four directors are working on their first features, and all are graduates of the last two classes at the Film School. That's never happened before".
Animated Feature Films in Production / A Selection
Olsen Gang Gets Polished
The Olsen Gang, the legendary trio of small-time crooks with big-money dreams, have lent their name to more than a dozen films since 1968. Now for the first time the three lovable antiheroes will be appearing in animated stereoscopic 3D. Being no exception to the series' inclination for poking fun at authorities, the story involves the Prime Minister, Hans Christian Andersen's quill and the Queen's guards.
Director Jørgen Lerdam Production Nordisk Film, A. Film Release 14 October 2010
Nina Crone, successful producer of the smash hit Sunshine Barry & The Disco Worms, has plunged into a new project, an animated stereoscopic 3D feature from a classic Danish children's book, Ole Lund Kirkegaard's Freddy Frogface. The creative team is collaborating with an animation studio located in Beijing.
Directors Peter Dodd, Gert Fredholm Production Crone Film Release 3 February 2011
The Great Bear
The team behind this ambitious low-budget project have scrounged up enough funds to make a stereoscopic 3D version of their film, a visually striking tale of a giant, millennium-old bear roaming a cool, mythical Nordic woodland. The Great Bear is the first feature film by director Esben Toft Jacobsen, who graduated in animation directing from the National Film School of Denmark in 2006.
Director Esben Toft Jacobsen Production Copenhagen Bombay Release 10 February 2011.
Jensen & Jensen
Craig Frank, one of three co-directors of "Journey to Saturn", is working on his new animated satire "Jensen & Jensen". We're in the year 2019. In a world where money is everything and debt can get you the death penalty, the Jensen brothers, Bjarne and Jimmy, are feeling the squeeze. Orbit Studio, part of the animation team that brought us the smash hits "Terkel in Trouble" and "Journey to Saturn", are doing the animation of "Jensen & Jensen".
Director Craig Frank Production Miso Film Release 2011.
Ronal the Barbarian
Thorbjørn Christoffersen and Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, two of the co-directors on Journey to Saturn, are embarking on their 3D-animated feature, Ronal the Barbarian. Produced by Einstein Film, an animation start-up founded by the two directors with producers Philip Einstein Lipski and Trine Heidegaard. Christoffersen and Vestbjerg Andersen made their debut as feature directors with "Terkel in Trouble", a festival and domestic hit.
Directors Thorbjørn Christoffersen, Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen Production Einstein Film Release 2011.
Since graduating in animation directing from the National Film School in 2008, Jan Rahbek has been working on his first animated feature, "Carlo's Casino". The film is produced by Nice Ninja, a new company founded by Thomas Borch Nielsen and the awardwinning team behind the successful animated feature "Sunshine Barry & The Disco Worms". Nice Ninja is exclusively in the business of producing animated fiction films.
Director Jan Rahbek Production Nice Ninja Release 2012.