In his early 30s and still living with his mother, Manivald is an “overeducated, unemployed and generally uninspired” fox who excels at piano but struggles with social skills. In Estonian animator Chintis Lundgren’s short film, also called Manivald, we’re plunged into the claustrophobic (and sexually frustrated) world of this vulpine protagonist, who longs to join a travelling jazz troupe but instead irritatedly practices his scales while his overbearing mother watches his every move. But their oppressive codependence is interrupted when the washing machine breaks and hot wolf plumber Toomas comes (quite literally) into their lives. A spicy – and jealousy filled – love triangle ensues, and when Toomas beds both Manivald and his mum, Manivald knows its time to fly the nest.
The idea for the film, Chintis tells It’s Nice That, was inspired by all her friends that still live with their mothers. Co-written with Draško Ivezić (also the gravelly voice of hot wolf Toomas), the script took seven months to nail down while Chintis simultaneously worked their ideas into an animatic. “The most challenging part is always the script,” Chintis tells It’s Nice That. “You need to make sure that the story makes sense and that everything is clear and understandable, but at the same time it all needs to be fun and have a nice rhythm. I think I had a few mental breakdowns while fixing the holes in the story, some of which we realised were there way too late in production.”
The animation process itself took about five months, working all hours of the day and weekends. In order to make their deadline, Draško helped with a few scenes while animator Darko Vidačković worked on backgrounds. All the still elements of the film have been drawn six times, giving the lines a tactile, jittery feel. Chintis says, “I never studied animation, so I’m able to only draw in this specific way. All that I wanted to achieve was it to look like an animated film, drawn by a conscious being!”
Colour was also an important consideration for Chintis. Riffing on fox-like russets, the film is filled with shades of pink and red, that make a clear distinction between the warmth of home and the edgy greyness of Toomas’s neighbourhood. “I’m obsessed with monochrome compositions,” Chintis says. “I can’t explain why, but having too many different colours in one frame disturbs me.”
The final step was to work with composer Terence Dunn to bring the images and story to life. Whether it’s increasingly irritable arpeggios, sexy bass twangs and guitar stabs as Toomas provocatively asks for a screwdriver, or magical lullabies as Manivald imagines stroking the pecks of his wolf lover while they ride a horse together, Terence’s score adds edge, humour and smut to Chintis’s cute animation style. It’s a well-paced, and impeccably written short that’s both saucy and sweet. And how does Chintis hope viewers respond to the film? “By moving out!” she laughs.