“The Tannery” is a short 2D animation film by Edinburgh animation artist Iain Gardner. I caught it on TV by sheer chance a few months ago and it impressed me so much that I was kicking myself for days later because I didn’t record it.
At under 10 minutes, “The Tannery” is a really short film and because it aired at 3am, I wrote it off as one of those amazing little films that you only manage to see once and then never again.
…Ah, but Channel 4…
Good old Channel 4 aired the film once again and although it still had the same graveyard slot, I stayed up and enjoyed it all over again. I even managed to record it and I’ve been playing it for anyone who comes to visit me.
It’s hard to explain the film’s simple plot without completely ruining it for you but stick with me, we’ll get there.
“The Tannery” is the story of a young fox in the snow who one day gets his brains blown out by a huntsman and instead of being no more, the fox becomes a spirit and continues on his merry way through the afterlife.
The fox makes pals with the spirit of a wee bunny rabbit and together, they run around in the snow having a great time and occasionally watching the spirits of other animals sailing up into the stars…
…Well, that’s as much as I can really tell you but the ending of the film could give the ending of “The Sopranos” a run for its money!
Just like its IMDB page the trailer for “The Tannery” gives nothing away.
Like I said, I want to tell everyone I know about “The Tannery” but it’s a tricky thing to do without completely spoiling the film so I thought I’d do the next best thing.
I tracked down Iain Gardner who made the film and I asked him a few questions and wouldn’t ya know it, he actually answered them!
Q. Hello Iain! You’re from Edinburgh and I’m from Glasgow. Shouldn’t we be fighting each other in some bar somewhere?
A. Probably best we take it outside.
Q. I was lucky enough to have caught your short animation film “The Tannery” not once but twice in the wee hours on Channel 4. I was very impressed. How long did it take to put together?
A. Uuuuuurgh. Months. 6 months of protracted development, and then 8-9 months in production. Actually, I’m foggy on how many months it took to actually make, as I became the walking dead myself in the process.
Q. When and how did you come up with the idea for “The Tannery”?
A. Drink. You get asked this question at Festivals, and I’m keen to build on my mythology that a bottle of wine started it, but I was drunk when I got thinking that there might be wee sad souls yearning for the furs that selfish arrogant vain humans wear. It was years ago – the film started as ‘The Fox Who Lost It’s Fur’ and was a much bigger, more epic, story but the practicalities of budget and time meant that the tone of my idea had to come across in a much simpler and shorter narrative – still, I constructed it in such a way that I may still be able to pick up the story where ‘The Tannery’ left off. Still can’t judge from audience reaction whether it’s worth mining that seam.
Q. The film manages to be very charming, sinister, lovely and bleak all at once. Did you set out to shock?
A. I certainly didn’t set out to shock, and fought hard not to do so – there were many script advisors attached to the film, and their main proclivity seemed to be gore and pain. No, I wanted to break people’s hearts! That was the main experiential emotion that I wanted to channel via animation. I’ve nothing against comedy in Animation, but the plasticity of the medium manages to trigger that reflex within the diaphragm that makes us laugh. Do you remember Bambi? Whether you love it or hate it, and my film similarly has its detractors, but that is animation at its most wonderful, when it engages your emotions and makes you cry. I’ve had a few reports of tears in audiences. Can’t please all the people all of the time, but mission accomplished.
Q. The film certainly broke my heart and it’s refreshing to see a 2D animation film these days. How many artists worked on the film?
A. I’d like to say one, because essentially it was a one man band. However, the wonderfully talented animator and illustrator Rachel Everitt assisted me throughout with rendering the artwork (not in the computer rendering sense, but in brandishing pencils and creating soft lines and shades, much as The Snowman was created), and a team of enthusiasts joined near the end to help animate the Hunter in his lodge (thank you Ulrike Keil), and additional support was volunteered from Andy Macpherson, Owen Rixon, Neil McDonald and David Bell. Not to mention the CGI team at world class Axis Animation, headed by Wiek Luijken with Drew Robertson, Stu Shapiro, Richard Clay and Dana Dorian. So with reference to the actual frames, I’d possibly claim 75% blood from my fingertips, and the rest shared with those 11 talented individuals – there’s also the musical talent led by composer Mick Cooke, and volunteers who helped scan the drawings into the computer.
Q. How big a part did contemporary technology play in the making of the film?
A. There was the CGI work done at Axis for a few moving backgrounds, and all the shots were composited in After Effects, with artwork scanned into Photoshop. But the performances were hand drawn, paper and pencil!
Q. I’m starting to find big glossy Hollywood 3D animation productions almost…too glossy and perfect. What are your thoughts?
A. Come and see the McLaren Animation at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June. You’ll enjoy that. And the International Animation programme. June 20th-1stJuly. Programme announced on the 30th May.
But yes, there does need to be more variety in animated features, but sadly it’s dictated by box office. Rent ‘The Illusionist’ by Sylvain Chomet. Watch ‘101 Dalmatians’ again.
Q. I write and illustrate a comic strip using a black biro pen and people continually tell me to employ software for a helping hand so that I can churn it all out quicker.I feel that the strip would loose any charm it may have if I did this. Do you have any advice?
A. Follow your gut. Who are these people?
Q. EXACTLY! What kind of things influence your work?
A. Time and money!
I love Eastern European Animation – the fine art created by certain film makers within a certain period of time, not the ‘cooing’ mole we saw on telly in the seventies. Frederic Bac from Canada is an obvious inspiration to me (if you know his work). And I love Jiri Trnka, both as Film maker and Illustrator – it’s his centenary April 2012, check your local cinema (GFT?) and see if you can catch his stop motion films.
2014 will be Norman McLaren’s Centenary, he’s an inspiration – look out for events celebrating that also!
Q. “The Tannery” is currently going around the World film circuit. Have you had any feedback from insomniacs like me who caught your film on Channel 4 in the wee wee hours ?
A. Well, here are a few of my favourite anonymous tweets;
‘it was like the snowman only more violent!’
‘Inadertantly (sic) just watched The Tannery.. Quite possibly one of the saddest pieces of animation I’ve seen ☹ JESH… !’
‘freakin the f**k out watchin this ‘the tannery’ fox movie! Incredible’
‘felt like I’d been on an LSD sesh’
‘Just watched a sick animation called the tannery. Made me think. Now…bed.’
These reactions probably say more about insomniac tweeters than the film though.
Q. Do you happen to know if Channel 4 has any plans to run the film for a third time?
A. Well, it’s been on four times, and if it’s on again I’ll need to check the broadcast agreement in place for the film! I’d love it to be aired when people are awake next time. It’s been sold to SBS Australia, and I’m hoping more territories will follow suit. Silent film is perfect for international audiences.
END OF Q & A.
Many thanks go to Iain for his talents and for taking the time to answer my questions.
Look out for “The Tannery”.