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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

Work / Animation

Amanda Eliasson’s powerful animation reflects on the painful reality of drug abuse

Channel 4, The Barbican and School of Life; these are just some of animation director Amanda Eliasson’s clients. With her vibrant style and abstract compositions, it’s no wonder Amanda has attracted attention from some of the creative industry’s most respected institutions. Despite graduating with an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2017, animation wasn’t always on the cards for Amanda. Initially, the young animator applied to train as an air traffic controller but sent an application to Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm on the side. It was during her time at the Swedish design school that Amanda fell in love with animation and the exciting narrative opportunities it offered her.

It was, however, Amanda’s time at the RCA that shaped the animator’s distinct aesthetic: her work went from being “quite flat” to the textured, multi-coloured approach she now follows. Her latest film, Snow White Cologne, draws on personal experience and explores the painful reality of drug abuse and the difficult recovery process that might follow. With its psychedelic frames and bold, vivid images, Amanda’s film gives the viewer an honest insight into addiction’s harrowing emotional truths.

How did the idea behind Snow White Cologne come about?

Snow White Cologne is based on a true story about my sister who, as a teenager, had a drug abuse problem. I wanted to tell her story in a non-judgemental way, which is why the film tackles the difficult subject of drug addiction in an emotional manner rather than providing the viewer with straight facts. Writing this film was sort of therapeutic for me as it made me post-rationalise everything she went through at the time of her boyfriend’s death.

The story is written as a poem, using an experimental cut-up technique inspired by William S Burroughs. The poetry allowed me to work with metaphors like the butterflies that symbolise drugs and the underwater world that symbolises an altered state of mind.

Why did you decide to use paint in your animation?

All my favourite animations are hand-made. I’m drawn to the tactile outcome that often occurs when working with hand-generated materials. As Snow White Cologne is my graduation film I knew I had to push myself a bit harder than normal. To paint more than 3,000 frames seemed like a good idea at the time but, I’m not gonna lie, there were several occasions when I wished I had gone for a less time-consuming approach.

How did you decide on your colour palette?

I like ugly things like clashing colours. I decided to pick all the colours that I liked without caring if they’d fit well together or not. As Snow White Cologne explores reality vs an altered state of mind, it allowed me to play with a very bright, trippy palette as opposed to the more subdued colours of of the real world.

Did you face any narrative or creative challenges?

I found writing the story really challenging as the subject is sensitive and I didn’t want to offend anyone involved. The narrative is not autobiographical; it’s written by me from a third person perspective, imagining how my sister was thinking and feeling as the facts unfolded.

When it comes to the animation itself, I would never have finished it on time if it wasn’t for my army of painting assistants from Central Saint Martins, London College of Communication, Camberwell College of Arts and King’s College London. It’s insane how hard-working and helpful the animation community in London is!

For Snow White Cologne I decided to take on the sound design myself for the first time ever. It was scary, but I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the sound to be like so I didn’t want to give it away to another designer. Kerstin Ljungström, Adam Renström and Clara Blom Christensen made the music used in my film, which they kindly let me cut and stretch to fit the film.

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne

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Amanda Eliasson: Snow White Cologne