“Cryptozoo,” an animated film that premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and was quickly acquired by Magnolia, took over four years to make, mainly due to the different animation techniques used to craft the film.
“I love an early animator named Winsor McCay… and I saw an unfinished short he did called ‘The Centaurs,’ that was elegantly drawn and sophisticated and the fact that he never made this movie felt like there was something there,” writer and director Dash Shaw told Beatrice Verhoeven during TheWrap’s Sundance Studio presented by NFP and National Geographic.
At the same time, he said, his animation director and wife Jane Samborski “ran an all-women’s ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ group in Brooklyn and I had to leave the apartment every time these people came over — Jane painted most of the cryptids in the movie.”
Samborski explained the “collaged process” of the film, saying, “we went into the physical production shortly after our daughter was born, about four years ago. This film starts with traditional media where we are doing all the drawing and painting on pencil and paper and wash on Bristol Paper and then we bring those on the computer and then we create articulated thoughts.”
The follows Cryptozookeepers who try to capture Baku, a dream-eating hybrid creature of legend, and debate whether they should display these creatures or keep them hidden from the world. Lake Bell, Zoe Kazan, Michael Cera, Louisa Krause, Peter Stormare, Thomas Jay Ryan, Grace Zabriskie and Angeliki Papoulia all voice-animated characters in the film.
“I feel very lucky to have been a part of it because I do outwardly love voice over and the medium of being anything and exist in multiple dimensions and genres without curbing — it’s the most creative medium as an actor,” Bell told TheWrap. “In reading this, I felt like the beauty and unbridled imagination of these two people in this poetic way as husband and wife and parents… I find that admirable as well. There was something so unusual about it and that felt very appealing. And then there is social and cultural commentary at the root of it as well.”
Krause explained how much fun she had in the recording studio, using props to really get to the root of her voiceover work. “My character encounters a unicorn in the movie so I was acting with a hobby horse-unicorn,” she said.
Zabriskie was in awe of the film as well and loved how many genres it incorporated.
“I had absolutely no idea how the film would really look. I was so intimidated by the fact that it’s this amazing, successful melding of different things,” she said. “I was making a list of all the different genres you can name that are all kind of involved… everything is merged as a whole and that really is something new under the sun.”
Watch the full interview above.
TheWrap’s Sundance Virtual Studio is sponsored by NFP and National Geographic.