Festival audiences this year will have the opportunity visit a very special vacation destination, where stop-motion and hand-drawn animation collide in one woman’s confrontation with her own childlessness: The Miracle is one of the many compelling, artistic animated shorts awaiting visitors to the 2023 Annecy Festival next month (June 11-17).
In the film, The Miracle is a wondrous all-inclusive resort, “a place where the sun always shines.” After checking in late, our protagonist Irma sets out to explore the area, and soon realizes that everything is designed for families. Irma immerses herself in the relaxing life of the resort, but struggles with the constant reminders of what she does not have.
Ahead of her return to Annecy, we had a chance to ask multi-award-winning Dutch director Nienke Deutz (Bloeistraat 11) about her animated take on this complex topic. The Miracle‘s team also offered Animation Magazine an exclusive first look at the short’s teaser, which you can find below.
Animation Magazine: Can you tell us when you started to work on your short and how long did it take to make?
Nienke Deutz: I started to write for The Miracle in the beginning of 2019. Production started early 2021 and it took almost two years to finish.
What was your inspiration for the short?
The portrayal of pregnancy and motherhood in pop culture ignited my idea. Both are passionately celebrated but, at the same time, the emotions of women who — for whatever reason — do not conceive, often seem to be hushed up and ignored.
Which animation tools were used and how many people worked on it?
The film is a combination of 2D animation and stop motion. First, the characters are animated in 2D, these drawings are printed on transparent sheets, then cut out and hand painted. We built physical sets and reanimated the characters frame-by-frame in those sets.
The core teams for both 2D and stop-motion animation consisted of around eight people. In total, over 50 people worked on this film. Some of them painted frames for a few days, others worked on the film for over four months.
What was your biggest challenge?
To keep my cool during the intense period of production. It was a lot to juggle; thousands of frames, and a giant set!
Best lesson you learned during the production of the short?
I’ve learned so many lessons, especially in the field of time management. How important it is to have a good planning and always be a few steps ahead.
Who are your animation idols and inspirations?
I love the work of Allison Schulnik — it feels like such a pure form of animation, I can look at it forever. In terms of storytelling, one of the best shorts I have seen in a while is It’s Nice in Here by Robert-Jonathan Koeyers.
What do you love about working in the animated short format?
It’s a great format to use bold styles and because of the short time available it drives me to the core of the narrative.
What do you hope audiences will take way from your short? By portraying Irma, the main character, I hope to show a woman that has struggles and doubts around pregnancy and motherhood but who finds humor and strength in her situation. I would love for the film to inspire and open up a conversation around this topic.
The Miracle is co-produced by Belgium’s Lunanime, Keplerfilm in The Netherlands and Les Productions de Milou in France, with Annemie Degryse as producer, distributed by Miyu Distribution.