If you want to know how Toy Story would play out if it was made with the dark imagination of Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer, Toys in the Attic is the animated movie for you.
Created by Svankmajer’s prolific protégé Jiri Barta, it centres around loft-dwelling doll called Buttercup. She leads an idyllic life in the Land of Happy Toys until a black cat kidnaps her and takes her to the Land of Evil. The movie follows the attempted rescue of Buttercup by her friends: a mouse, a marionette, and a teddy bear.
So it’s a kids’ film - but not like any we’ve seen before. For a start it’s an allegory for the east/west divide of the Cold War. Secondly, like Svankmajer’s Alice, there’s something deeply unsettling about Barta’s re-animated toys.
Characters include moustache-wearing mechanical insects, rotten fruit, and what looks from the trailer to be dancing potatoes with women’s legs. You can be sure we’re not likely to find Toys in the Attic’s disembodied eye in a Happy Meal any time soon.
Barta’s work is always a multi-media treat. Live action film, clay, puppet animation, and pixelation all combine in a wonderful melange to create the film’s unique look. Even traditional cel animation gets a look-in, creating atmospheric effects like smoke, steam, and snow.
The techniques are traditional but their combination is thoroughly modern; Barta favoured digital compositing and filmed multiple plates when a single take became too complicated.
At a time when CG’s polished aesthetic is setting the bar for mainstream animation, and even Aardman are artificially reintroducing finger prints to maintain their hand-made look, the raw materiality of Toys in the Attic is enormously refreshing. Take a look at the trailer here:
- Paul Roberts is one of a handful of editors at Max Underground, a site dedicated to CG news and reviews.
Have you seen an animation that breaks from the norm? Let us know about it in the comments below!