Work / Animation

Daniel Stankler reimagines the classics into colourful and uncanny animations

Daniel Stankler, based in London, initially studied Classics and Literature at St Andrews before he found his path as an animator. “I took a funny route,” he admits. “For a while I thought I was going to be an ancient greek archaeologist.” Yet upon deliberation of choices and after a stint working in an architecture firm making “explainer videos” on Powerpoint, that’s when he took the plunge into animation. “But my aunt reminded me the other week that, actually, when I was very young I’d wanted to be an animator after all.”

Drawing on themes from folklore and myth to psychology, history, cultural traditions and human behaviour, his classical background is unmistakably poignant within his work. Retro storybook illustrations – particularly Eastern European and Soviet era – old fairytale illustrations, mid-century animation and graphic design, plus German Expressionism and the Moomin comics by Tove Jansson are what inspires Daniel to a great degree. “I don’t just love the design of them, but also how they’ve aged and the printing processes with which they were made,” he tell It’s Nice That. “I get very nerdy about it.” Although from drawing from particular sources, Daniel admits that he’s always found it hard to decipher his own style. “It’s something that I used to worry about a lot, as I never came from a design background. I think over time it’s something that crystallises naturally.”

Filled with bright colours, harsh contrasts and unusual compositions, Daniel has indeed mastered his genre. A recent endeavour sees the animator work his magic on a music video, titled Second Wind for French producer L’indécis, commissioned by Chillhop. “Everyone was super open-minded about the brief, but we knew we wanted to go for something easy, rhythmic, slightly strange and with its own internal world,” he explains. “I loved the rhythm of the song and how it changes in tempo and goes through different phases, and it seemed that the music video ought to highlight that too.” As a result, Daniel and the producer devised a narrative that saw a balloon going on a journey through different worlds. “In my mind, I vaguely recalled 8-bit platform games like Mario of Kirby when I was a kid, and how each level was a universe of its own,” he says. “I think that came through quite strongly into the video.”

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Daniel Stankler: The School Of Life, Intimacy and Closeness

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Daniel Stankler: The School Of Life, Intimacy and Closeness

Elsewhere, a soon-to-be-released commission for The School Of Life sees Daniel animate on the topics of intimacy and closeness in modern relationships. It’s a subject matter that he finds fascinating: “Alain de Botton explores why it is that the closer we get to someone, the less we actually want to sleep with them and, how, it’s often easier to have sex with someone we don’t know rather than someone we love very deeply.” Drawn towards anything a “bit strange and weird”, this film, like his others, encompasses his desire to create “funny, cute and slightly uncanny characters that almost seen human, but aren’t.”

His graduation film from the Royal College of Art, titled Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood, is a feminist re-telling of the Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon – “but oddly, I realised that it functioned equally as a perfect analogy of objectification in modern online dating.” In this sense, his work evokes a huge sense of the classics in a reimagined modern context. “I love to explore what it is to be human through storytelling, which is something society has been doing forever,” he explains. “It’s how we relate to each other; myths and fairytales say so much about human preoccupations and anxieties, and these haven’t really changed from classical Greece to the modern age.”

“We’re still anxious about the same things – love, death, the things we can’t control, the things we don’t understand,” Daniel concludes, “which means that old stories are always relevant and have an uncanny way of creeping up on us, recycled into newer forms that we don’t immediately recognise.”

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Daniel Stankler: Second Wind

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Daniel Stankler: Second Wind

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Daniel Stankler: Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood

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Daniel Stankler: Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood

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Daniel Stankler: The School Of Life, Intimacy and Closeness

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Daniel Stankler: The School Of Life, Intimacy and Closeness

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Daniel Stankler: The School Of Life, Intimacy and Closeness