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‘Long Way North’ Director Chose Emotion Over Detail for Animated Adventure Epic

TheWrap Screening Series: French-Danish animated film is inspired by Russian literature and polar expeditions

French-Danish animated film “Long Way North” follows wealthy teenager Sasha as she ventures out to sea chasing the ruins of her grandfather’s ship in the Arctic. It’s a multifaceted tale inspired by explorers like Ernest Shackleton, Russian novels and even Latin poetry.

But the animation technique used is simple, with relatively featureless faces and bodies. Director Rémi Chayé said that was designed to minimize distractions for the viewer, so they could follow the storyline.

“I really like drawing and paintings and I feel they express a lot of things through simplicity,” Chayé told TheWrap Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman in a Q&A following a screening of the film Monday night in Los Angeles. “When you put too much details, you are not getting as much emotion.”

“I saw with other movies animators would spend too much time on details, on the clothes, and animation would not be emotional enough,” he continued. “I decided to remove all details of the clothes. No buttons.”

But the simpler style doesn’t mean Chayé and crew are anti-technology. The animation process was paperless — all of the characters were designed on a computer. And the film also incorporates 3D technology, notably in a certain blizzard scene.

The weather also served as the film’s primary antagonist, said producer Claus Toksvig Kjaer.

“We developed a film that didn’t really have a villain,” he said. “It was very important for us when they came to the North Pole to realize that’s a place you might die.”

When he first read the script, Chayé was attracted to the fact that Sasha was an older teenager and not a more typical younger child protagonist.

“We were looking for an adventure with a female character that will be adventurous and strong,” he said. “[We] were looking for a character that will be a little bit older than a standard movie. The bet was with an older teenager hero, [the audience] will be able to identify themselves with the character.”

Chayé said the film “relates to Russian novels,” and called its Russian setting “the perfect nest” for this type of story, about a teenager born with a silver spoon who is forced on a character-defining journey.

“In a symbolic way, it’s what we are telling,” he said. “‘Girl, you come from your golden childhood and now you meet the world. You have to learn humanity.'”

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