23rd Animation Division Excellence Award
LONG WAY NORTH
Animated feature film
Remi CHAYE [France]
An animated feature film and co-production of France and Denmark. The central character is Sasha, a Russian girl from a noble family, living in Saint Petersburg. A year ago, Sasha’s grandfather, who departed on a voyage to search for a water route to the North Pole, disappeared without a trace and now the search mission is about to be terminated. Sasha’s grandfather and entire family have at this point fallen from grace, and in order to curry favor with the prince, her father decides to host a debutante ball for his daughter. In the meantime, Sasha finds a note in her grandfather’s study that details the real route his ship took. Based on this discovery, she implores the prince to send out a new search party. Her request incurs the displeasure of both the prince and her father, so Sasha eventually resolves on her own to set off on an adventurous voyage to the North Pole (“The very top of the world”) to find her grandfather. The creator of this animation employs a simple drawing style that bears resemblance to earlier Japanese animated feature films. Vibrant movement depicts the emotion and conflict of the characters who overcome disparate difficulties. Brimming with poetic sentiment, LONG WAY NORTH becomes memorable for its unique visual ambience that evokes a picture book without contour lines.
This animated film fascinated me with its simply-structured character design and background art. This, of course, does not mean that it is lacking in realism. On the contrary, the story is convincing and coherent. The number of characters and their positioning is accurately calculated, so that even if settings change, viewers do not lose their grasp of the situation. It is nothing short of brilliant. The depiction of space in the ice fields in the second half of the film was particularly breathtaking. While always difficult to convey a sense of depth in spaces that lack any objects with which they could gain dimension, the artist has amazingly managed to visualize space remarkedly well, and in such a simple way at that. Not just the layout, but the manipulation of color, too, is truly magnificent. As an animation director, I had a mild case of jealousy from watching this film. The cityscapes of Saint Petersburg in the first half are works of beauty. I would not go as far as to say that the film is flawless, but while watching it, its overwhelming power takes hold. In my work as an animation director, I found so much to learn about technique from this film and strongly recommend that you see it. (UDA Konosuke)