After 75 days of a 15-person team juggling challenging work on three simultaneous schedules, 12 minutes of footage for Michał Łubiński’s stop-motion short Astra has been completed at the Audiovisual Technology Center in Wrocław. The project enters post production with a premiere planned for mid 2022.
The new film by Łubiński (Bed Side Story) is a universal story about sisterly love, great adventures and the inevitable difficulties of life. The story centers on six-year-old Astra, who tries to stop her sister from taking part in a dangerous mission. However, when Anna needs help, the little girl embarks on a rescue mission to space on her own without hesitation.
“A film set usually means large constructions or virtual scenography, but this time everything was in miniature,” noted Robert Banasiak, Director of the CeTA Audiovisual Technology Center in Wrocław, producer of the film. “We [were introduced] to Michał Łubiński and his project Astra in 2018 in Łódź during the ANIMARKT Stop Motion Forum. We were happy to decide to make this film in our studio, because we also want to be present in the area of the production of animated films.”
Before the puppets made their on-set debuts, many weeks of preparation were needed. “First, I made drawings of figures, then 3D models, based on which elements of the head and some body fragments were printed in 3D technology,” Łubiński explained. Creating the puppets required precise manual work, crafted with talent and experience. The puppets for Astra were created by a team from Łódź: Piotr Knabe, Dariusz Kalita, Agnieszka Mikołajczyk and Agnieszka Smolarek, Beata Jarmuż-Socha and Anna Szcześniak.
“Łódź is famous in the world for its excellent specialists who create animation puppets,” said Katarzyna Gromadzka from MOMAKIN, the film’s executive producer. “The Astra project gathered six recognized [artists] with great experience in the production of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and Suzie Templeton’s Oscar-winning Peter and the Wolf.”
The film’s story unfolds across many locations, starting in Astra’s tiny room, through corridors of the science center, to a ship in outer space. The range of the scale is large, which was quite a challenge for the set and props team led by Jacek Spychalski from the CeTA Animation Studio and for the puppet makers.
“Astra’s hands, which are about one centimeter long, turned out to be a difficulty when working on a scale of 1:6. We animated her tiny fingers, built on thin wires, so we had as many as seven pairs of interchangeable hands for the character,” noted Łubiński. “We also used a very attractive and original technique of ink in water to reproduce the cosmos. To obtain the effect of slow motion, the movement of mixing fluids was recorded with higher frames per second rate. I couldn’t do it all at home, animating on my own. The possibility of using CeTA facilities guaranteed us the world standard of production and working conditions.”
Łubiński is an architect whose passion is animation, to which he devotes his every free moment. His first film, Bed Side Story, was recognized by film festivals such as the Warsaw International Film Festival and the Zubroffka Short Film Festival, and won two awards.
Astra was co-financed by the Polish Film Institute and the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport. In recent weeks, the institutions supporting the project have been joined by EC1 Łódź – City of Culture as part of the Łódź Film Fund. The project was the winner of the 2018 Pitching competition of the ANIMARKT Stop Motion Forum.