What do a landscape painter sheep, a street art rat and a tattooing elephant have in common? The three unusual characters are protagonists of the MITMALFILM project by Uli Seis. The project started in 2015, was then further developed at Animation Sans Frontières (ASF) and has now been awarded the Trickstar Business Award of the Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS). We talked to Uli Seis about the idea behind the project, his time at ASF and what happened after that (spoiler: the project became a company in its own right).
How does MITMALFILM work?
A Mitmalfilm is a coloring book for children that can be turned into an animated film. From the children's point of view, this works quite simply in three steps: color in the coloring book, take a picture with a smartphone or tablet, and watch the film. The children experience that a real animated film is playing in their self-painted picture.
You can give it a try at www.mitmalfilm.de. It even works in the browser of your smartphone, no app installation needed.
Behind the scenes the following happens (this might be especially interesting for animation film professionals): We provide finished animation films. The image painted by the users is uploaded via the app and inserted, for example, as a background layer in the compositing and then rendered into a film. To start with, we have a film that already works with a single background; there are also some with three or more images. Moreover, you can paint things other than backgrounds, e.g. a tattoo or graffiti that is designed and then appears at a surprising point in the film.
Where did the idea for MITMALFILM come from?
The idea developed step by step. The basic idea of having children paint the background images in an otherwise professionally animated film was developed by Alice von Gwinner and me in 2015 and tried out in a music video ("Hoch und Tief - der Mitmalfilm"). This initially worked very successfully as a workshop. Building on this, we developed the idea of implementing the concept as a book and app for children as well.
Can you tell us something about the stories and the characters?
It's important to us that our films are well created, funny and good short films, quite apart from the fact that you can color them yourself as a "Mitmalfilm". Our characters are art-loving animals. There is, for example, the landscape painter sheep Claude Momäh, the street art rat Ranksy and the tattooing elephant Tattoo-Ed. They overcome adventures and obstacles with imaginative solutions and the means of art.
How was your time at Animation Sans Frontières? What did you experience?
I had the privilege of participating in Animation Sans Frontières (ASF) in 2017/2018. It was great to be able to visit these four great animation schools and spend two weeks each learning and working on my own project. I found it especially valuable that we got insights into different production companies, both very large and small, young companies, some of which were also founded by ASF alumni. Experiencing it all in a group of great, creative animation filmmakers was unique. If I could, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
In what ways did ASF help you develop your project?
What we learned, but especially the environment, helped enormously and certainly accelerated the development extremely. First of all, you are in an intensive, creative environment for months. You constantly get input and qualified feedback from different directions, you have to present and explain your idea again and again and by doing so, indentify opportunities to improve your project. With good reason, a lot of time was spent on the proper presentation of the projects: How do I make a good one-pager, how do I convince at the pitch?
Animation Sans Frontières is a 4×2 weeks lecture/workshop-based training programme designed to give junior European animation film and production professionals an understanding of the European and international animation industry and markets. Sounds good? Once a year, you can apply for ASF.
What happened after ASF?
Immediately following ASF, we were first able to produce a pilot film and a beta version of the MITMALFILM app with project development funding. A year later, we were able to get the funding for the project in place and go into full production. MITMALFILM is funded by the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), the Thüringer Staatskanzlei, and the Sächsische Landesanstalt für privaten Rundfunk und neue Medien (SLM). In October 2020, our first MITMALFILM book "Claude Momäh und die große Leinwand" was published by migo-Verlag. It contains three of our "Mitmalfilms".
What are the next steps regarding your project?
The project has now become a company. Next, we plan to publish two more books with our own films. In addition, we are also going to make paint-along films from animated films made by other producers. After all, the "Mitmalfilm" technique makes it possible to offer animated shorts in the form of coloring books and is thus, from our point of view, a really useful merchandise product for artistically high-quality animated films. It is not the "coloring book to the movie", but actually the "movie in the book".