Hostas and the Art of Flight (2020)

Much like cats vs mice, one of the world's other longest-running semi-comic enmities is between gardeners and snails.  The difference is that there are less cartoons about the gardeners and snails.  But now I've made one.

Hostas and the Art of Flight was supposed to be a quick-and-dirty project, but ended up being big and unwieldy and taking more than two years to complete - I should have learned my lesson after the schedule blowout of The Probe Has Succeeded, but apparently I didn't.  It didn't help my case that I took the (rash, with hindsight) decision to produce all the artwork with two distinct colour layers: line work executed with dip pens and calligraphy inks, and a fill layer done in watercolour washes.  The analogue irregularities of the ink, paint, and underlying paper (more of my favourite Winsor & Newton 220gsm smooth-surface cartridge) were all embraced as part of the film's look and feel, although the elements were all scanned, composited, and reformed into a huge pile of virtual cutout pieces before assembling the finished shots inside the computer.

Meanwhile, echoing the aforementioned history of cartoons about cat-and-mouse rivalry (cough, Tom & Jerry), I'd asked my regular partner-in-crime Tim to write the music in a classical, roughly early-20th-Century-esque style, and he obliged with a piece composed around a chamber ensemble of flute, oboe, bassoon, violin and cello, recorded at the University of Bristol where he was working on his Masters degree - the deal was that as well as helping me out, the project would also count towards his degree portfolio.  The score was largely produced against a rough animatic of the film as I had very little of the animation finished yet.  Then as the animation dragged on for another year and a half after the recording, I mostly worked to the score, fine-tuning the timings as I finished shots to fit in with the musical structure.  The one notable exception came during the rocket launch scene towards the end, where I decided I needed to rejig two or three shots to better convey the gardener's course of action; fortunately I was able to restructure the scene in a way that fit in with the existing music, avoiding making any more work for Tim.

N.b.: 'Hostas' isn't the name of the gardener.  I've had some viewers make that assumption.  Hostas are a type of ornamental plant which is infamously attractive to snails (and can actually be eaten by humans as a salad).  His name's Edwin.


Edwin Leonard Hall - Gardener
Edwin is probably somewhere around retirement age, and very fond of his garden.  But pest status notwithstanding, he'd rather not resort to violence against the snails if he can avoid it.
Snails - The Enemy
Sneaky, slimy, coil-shelled little plant-murderers, these are.  And there seem to be an unlimited supply of them!

Screening Room


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