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Interview with ‘Wackatdooo’ Director Benjamin Arcand

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A brilliant new addition to the cartoon modern-style invasion of recent years comes packaged in the delightfully slick and bonkers short Wackadooo, created by Canada-based animator Benjamin Arcand. The short film follows a feline jazz-a-holic as he becomes hooked to the infectious beat of the music in a concerto of dancing and madness. The definition of ‘wackatdoo’ is ‘a person who is a step beyond crazy’ which will give you an idea of the vibe of this catchy little film. Benjamin has worked in the industry as an animator for over ten years. The film is a combination of his talent and drive to direct and create his own short film. Wackatdooo is currently doing the rounds across the globe. We were able to get a little time with Benjamin to gain some insight into this manic project of passion.

Am I correct in thinking that you animated most of this by yourself?

Yes, I almost animated the whole thing from rough animation to clean up animation by myself. I had the chance to have two friends and fellow animators helping me on the film. At first, they were supposed to do a little bit more, but they were pretty busy at that moment. So, they ended up animating only three scenes of the film. I also had the chance to have the great Edith Lebel setting the moods/colours on the film, she has done the color on most of the backgrounds. On my side (colour-wise), I am responsible for the more abstract stuff.

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How did you find yourself in the position to make the short film, was it commissioned or a passion project?

It was a “passion project”. I had been working in the animation industry for eleven years on projects that do not always fill my creative needs. I had always dreamed of directing an animated short film worthy of mention and I had been drawing that cat character for a long time, so I kind of created a story around him.

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How long were you working on the film in development, ideas, storyboards etc.?

The idea was growing in my head for a long period of time, but I’d say that it took me about two months to finish the animatic. I had a couple of rough story sketches already done, but since it is an independent film with basically only me making the decisions, I pretty much did the animatic straight ahead (in other words, I was drawing the storyboard and timing it at the same time).

The music is fantastic, and sets the tone for the entire film, can you tell us a little about the musicians and how you got them involved?

One of my good friends (François-Xavier Paquin), who I’ve playing music with since I am a kid, composed the music for the film. Even though, we play in a rock/punk band together, he is also currently doing a master’s degree in Jazz performance/writing at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montréal. Old swing Jazz and cartooney cartoons are an imputable duo in my opinion, so I asked him to compose something in that vein, which he did and he also found some super talented musicians (him included) to perform the music. I did the engineering for the recording and mixing on the track. Before the recording, we had set a “beat per minute” for the song, because I had already begun the animation on some of the shots. I animate most of the film according to the music after the recording though.


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The film is a somewhat manic telling of post-work euphoria as well as the infectious rhythms of the music, where did the inspiration for the story come form?

In fact, the idea is born from a straight-ahead animation I did with this cat character. I had so much fun animating those crazy dancing moves that I decided to make a short film out of it. I pretty much built the story around that.

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Everything gets a little out of hand towards the end. With the film’s title being defined as someone who is a step beyond crazy, which is certainly true of the cat character in your film, what caused you to take this rather dark turn?

I think it is purely driven by an entertainment purpose. The swing music drives him crazy. Also, all the dark elements in the film are relieved, whether by a funny moment or by that crazy swing jazz.

Can you elaborate on some of the artists/animators whose style influenced your own and/or the film itself?

I am a huge fan of old school American animation from the golden age like Ub Iwerks and cartoons from the Fleischer Studios and other things from the 30s for the craziness and pure fun animation; People in the 40s like Tex Avery, Bob Clampett & Chuck Jones for the gags and the quality of the animation; Also the 50s like UPA for the modern design. I cannot deny that I am also a huge fan of The Ren & Stimpy Show, I just discovered this incredible “thing” when I was a teenager. I was drawing a lot at that time and was already interested in art in general, but after seeing the episode “Stimpy’s Invention”, I knew that animation was what I wanted to do for a living.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 15.41.10

Color done by Edith Lebel

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layout by Benjamin Arcand

I believe the film was done in Toon Boom, I know your background is in Digital 2D and After Effects animation and all of your work tends to have this highly textured, rich and retro vibe to it, why have you chosen to work in this way?

Softwares are nice, they make the animation process easier and more accessible for everyone, but I think that traditional mediums are a thousand times richer and give a better result in term of image/render. So whenever I produce a digital image, I try to give a richer vibe to the image with textures, grain, etc. The same thing with film.

You also work in comics and music, can you tell us a little about this and if/how these practices complement your animation work?

It’s nice to do some other things; I think it helps to keep the creative juices flowing. For example, I am currently trying to finish an old project I started with some friends. We want to do a little book, like a compilation of single panel gags. If an idea doesn’t fit well into the format, I can sometime use it for animation, or vice versa…

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I understand you’re based in Montreal, which has a great heritage in both animation and comics, do you feel that your Canadian surroundings support this creative life style or would you be much the same anywhere?

Montréal is a really nice city to live in, it does have a great art heritage and it is very stimulating creatively. That being said, I must be honest, Montréal is not the most satisfactory city in the world when it comes to the quality of the animation productions, but I really love the city and living here.

What are you working on currently?

I just finished working on a French feature film called A Rigged World. There were ten animators animating about 30 minutes of the film here in Montréal. It was done in paperless traditional animation directly on Cintiqs, as was Wakatdooo. It was really nice working on that, I also had the chance to work with some super talented animators.

You can follow the progress of the film over at Benjamin’s working blog over at CRAZY BALONEY or his portfolio here.

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