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Cipercoper interview

Coming soon: Cipercoper, an animated short by Slovenian production company Indvida! To find out more about the project and its making-of, the Elephant invited itself for a visit to Zarja Menart, the project’s creative director. The new animated film Cipercoper is very likely to premiere at Animateka 2014 in December!


Zarja, can you briefly tell what Cipercoper is about?

It is an adaptation of Cipercoperček (Magic Spells), a book by Ida Mlakar, published by Sodobnost Indernational. The illustrations for the book were made by me. But as film is a different medium than literature, the original story had to be reshaped, some things left out, some other things replaced, and some new ones added.

The story is about two the naughty little witches Štumfa and Kuštra, who decide instead of going to school and to the dentist to search for their witch cat Pacek. We follow them on their bewitched journey through time and space, where they are joined by Brihta the know-it-all. And let’s leave it at that, I cannot reveal too much.


Can you tell us a little bit about the production technique and the software you use to make animations like this?

The film is mixed media, mostly 2D collage computer animation, some special effects are 3D. We also added hand-drawn animation, which I have grown very fond of recently and wanted it to be part of this, because it allows for smoother transitions and shape transformations.


Where is Cipercoper being conjured up and who is part of this magic?

The film is being made by production company Invida. It was written by Boris Dolenc and me, Zarja Menart, directed by Jernej Žmitek and Boris Dolenc, produced by Jure Vizjak. Voices were provided by Jana Župančič, Ajda Smrekar, Jernej Šugman and Klemen Slakonja. Animation is by Toni Mlakar, Jernej Žmitek, Matej Lavrenčič, Timon Leder and me, Zarja Menart. Script consultant was Sandra Ržen, Matej Lavrenčič helped design the sets, and thanks also go to head of the technical Jernej Lunder; Matevž Lavrinc and Tilen Stepišnik for music; and Julij Zornik, Jure Strajnar, Samo Jurca, Jaka Skočir, Igor Iskra and Ana Skerget for sound recording and sound mixing. At this point, I also have to mention the majority founder, the Slovenian Film Centre, which supported the project financially through a call for audio-visual project proposals.


What is your role in the project?

I took on the role of the creative director, illustrator and animator, which means I worked with the director to decide on the sets for each scene and the overall style of illustrations; I adapted the characters for animation, drew everything, and then proceeded to animate some of the parts and spend the rest of the time breathing down other animators’ necks so that every cloud ended up where it should be. And because I was really interested in what other phases of making an animated film looked like, I would stick my nose in almost all other phases of the process, from script to sound. But in a small team like this, it is perfectly normal for everyone to work together, so everyone else also helped me.


Given that we have so far known you as a book illustrator, how did you set about making illustrations for an animated film? Is there a difference?

When I first worked on illustrations for animation of these proportions, I had to consciously turn away from book illustration, where I can play with details almost as much as I want to. In animation illustration, I had to come to terms with the fact that sets have to be as simple as possible, because the audience cannot take in all my ideas in the duration of one scene and also because too many details would divert attention from what goes on in the fore. Book illustrations can be scrutinized forever, whereas a scene in an animated film only lasts a few seconds. But because I could not quite resist the temptation, it might be interesting to see the film more than once, and we don’t mind that one bit.

The knowledge in animation is very useful in my illustration work. Being aware of the restrictions and benefits of various techniques, I could simplify things for later while preparing materials, and I also had more room to experiment.


Did you stay true to the original book illustrations?

To some extent, yes, but I also took a new direction. Partly because I replaced brush with digital tools, and partly because I wanted to take it all a step further. Being a huge fan of all sorts of textures, I decided on collage, combining line and texture of paper coloured with a brush, with photos of the city, objects and textures. It was the author’s original idea for the story to be set in Ljubljana, even if rather implicitly, so I wanted to use as many textures from the streets of Ljubljana as possible.


Was this a very time consuming process, waking through the streets of Ljubljana, making sketches, taking photos, or were you not that concerned with being accurate?

I took a few walks through the old city just to get inspired. When I started making sketches, I returned to search for textures of stone, roofs, doorways, paving stones, plants, chimneys, the sky, clouds, door handles, and then went on to put this together. On the map I would look for houses with those charming little inner courtyards, but unfortunately many are out of bounds for nosy-parkers. When making illustrations, I was not too concerned with making accurate copies of the architecture, I just wanted to use some details to hint at which city it was. This is the part for adult audience, whereas the world we see in the film is shown through the eyes of children. What children see in this city is not any specific architecture; it is towers, mysterious basements and out-of-bounds gardens.


Who will enjoy this film?

I hope both children and adults, and I hope the film is multi-layered and interesting enough for everyone to find something for themselves.


Can we expect a sequel?

We would all love continue the project Ida has written several stories about Kuštra and Štumfa. But it all hangs on whether we manage to raise enough funds.


Where can we learn more about you and the film?

We have a Facebook page for Cipercoper (https://www.facebook.com/cipercoperfilm), where you can see the making of, and we also plan to put up a web site. Come and visit!

If you are very eager and can’t wait for the film to come out, you can drop by the library and get Cipercoperček, the book by Ida Mlakar with Zarja’s illustrations. To find out more about Zarja’s work, you can go to http://www.behance.net/zarjamenart.

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