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Tomm Moore • Director

“The timeless side of animation”


- Meeting in Paris with the Irish director of the wonderful animation movie Song of the Sea

Tomm Moore  • Director

Back from a promotional tour in California, Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore stopped off in Paris for a few days before the release (via Haut et Court) of his magnificent second feature: Song of the Sea [+see also:
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interview: Tomm Moore
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. Forthcoming and cheerful, he shared with us some points for reflection on the origin of his movie and on his approach to animation film.

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Cineuropa: How did the idea for Song of the Sea, a mix of modern life and Celtic legends come about?
Tomm Moore: When I made The secret of Kells [+see also:
film review
interview: Didier Brunner
interview: Tomm Moore
interview: Viviane Vanfleteren
film profile
, I was already thinking about making a movie about fairy tales. I was on holidays with my ten-year-old son on the west coast of Ireland and we saw some seals killed on the beach. According to the woman who was renting us a cottage, that wouldn't have happened 50 years previously because at that time people believed in the Selkies and in the fact that seals could harbour the soul of those lost at sea. I started thinking that these old stories weren't just charming tales for tourists, rather they were an essential part of culture; they could help to protect the environment and even our relationship with one another. Even if they're full of magic, they could also be insightful for a small community: it was a way to better understand the world. Then I started looking to see how I could tell that story to a modern family audience.

How did you strike a balance between some quite dramatic issues and the need to not scare off the young audience?
That's the way fairy tales are. There's always sadness and melancholy. I worked with screenwriter Will Collins and it was important that the story be quite sombre to find a way of transcending it metaphorically. I also wanted some music and humour. Once the script was written, we made a story-board and Bruno Coulais started working on the music, which led to further changes. In particular, we changed a sequence to make the whole thing more musical, Jungle Book-style.

What were your plans for the graphics?
I wanted a water-colour feel and I was really inspired by Paul Henry's landscapes. The artistic director of the film, Adrien Mérigeau, was able to perfectly capture that distinctive light that we have in Ireland. I also wanted to work around those marks etched onto rocks that you find in archaeological sites in Ireland. And Adrien linked them to modern art, by calling on Klee and Kandinsky.

How did you deal with financing and production?
After The Secret of Kells received an Oscar nomination we tried to find funding in the US, so that we could do everything in a single studio. But our partners were demanding to have a lot of control over the movie and wanted to turn it into a comedy for the American audience. We realised that even if it was more complicated, we would have more independence with the European model. So we entered into that whirlwind of co-production between five countries. But it worked really well. All the people we work with are like old friends. It's like a big family that works for this type of film.

You seem to follow Hayao Miyazaki.
I discovered his movies quite late and it's really the type of film that I want to make. My Neighbour Totoro really inspired me for The Song of the sea. It's got suffering and sadness, and we go beyond that. And although you don't have to understand Japanese Mythology to appreciate the film, you still learn something.

Why in 2D and not 3D?
I prefer that, I like to draw. One of the reasons why we didn't make the movie in the US was also because we didn't want CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery). What's good about 2D is that when you watch My neighbour Totoro and Ponyo on the cliff by the sea, it's really the same thing despite the 20 years that have passed between the two. Whereas, if you watch Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2, technologies have changed so much that it's totally different. Personally, I enjoy the timeless side of animation.

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