Last autumn, animator Arina Shabanova was invited to take over the Punanimation Instagram account. As she shared snippets of her work and daily life, Jimmy Stofer – a composer based in LA – took notice. He reached out to Arina, asking if she wanted to collaborate with him, producing a video for his track The Trembling Giant. Months later and the results of that collaboration have been released in a moving, thoughtful and entrancing animated video which shows a more contemplative side to an animator we previously loved for her humour.
The story in The Trembling Giant is of a forest thriving, growing bigger and bigger before humankind tries to burn it down for corporate gain. As the music softens and plays a single melody, the forest is reborn in an act demonstrating nature’s ultimate power over humanity. The track takes its name from The Pando Forest, commonly nicknamed The Trembling Giant, which inspired Jimmy’s track, as he explains on Instagram:
“I’ve been fascinated by this subject for a while," writes Jimmy. "The Pando Forest, commonly nicknamed ‘The Trembling Giant’, is located in southern Utah. It’s a colony of quaking aspen trees, which has one massive underground root system, covering over 100 acres. Not only is it the heaviest known organism on the planet, but also among the oldest known living organisms. It’s been able to survive all sorts of viruses, harsh weather, fires, etc because it intuitively knows how to adapt, kill off the dead trees, and re-grow.”
While representative of this one location, it’s a track which feels particularly pertinent as fires rage across the Amazon Rainforest. “It feels very timely, given today’s climate change discussion, and I’m passionate about preserving our Earth. The Pando Forest gives me hope,” Jimmy adds.
With this complex and important issue as her starting point, Arina wanted to add “more depth and metaphor” still. “This forest is one organism, and we, humans, and the whole world are also connected to each other. I wanted to tell a story through such comparisons, through transformations I wanted to highlight the feel of one system and to show how we affect each other,” she tells It’s Nice That. Throughout the three-minute film, narratives blur and loop as humankind and nature constantly merge and battle. “It’s confusing and puzzling, it’s beautiful and frightening,” Arina point out.
Aesthetically, the film is a departure from Arina’s previous work which was defined by its weird, fun characters and bold, block colours. “Such story needed an abstraction, some mystery and something different from I’ve done before,” she explains. “Lot’s of people see Matisse vibes in there but, honestly, only one ‘dance’ scene was on purpose, all other correlations were done intuitively. I also included Andy Warhol’s Flowers, and some reference to Michelangelo’s hands.” These references are combined with circular shapes and movements – the sun, dancing people, the crown of the trees, the characters hands and feet – as a symbolic nod to unity.
The Trembling Giant has a meditative quality to it, it’s captivating and hard to stop watching. “Music by Jimmy Stofer stopped time for me when I was listening to it, so my aim in the video was similar: for people to take big breath and relax for a couple of minutes, enjoying these nature motifs,” Arina says, concluding: “It was also important to show that one needs to be careful and understand the consequences of not only one’s actions but also words. We all have power, the question is whether we use it for the good?”
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