Work / Animation

Dante Zaballa’s animation of Japan morphs through bullet trains and karaoke bars

“Turning a pile of paper into a video is always exciting,” states Argentinian animator Dante Zaballa. Currently based between Berlin and Buenos Aires, Dante’s work is imbued with energy and full of child-like charm and colour.

Nowhere is this more evident than in his recent release, My Trip to Japan. Based on a real conversation he had with friend Juan Molinet (which he secretly recorded) before they left the country, it’s a morphing animation transitioning through memories from Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyoshi, Naoshima and Kyoto.

“I wanted to have some sort of souvenir from this trip,” Dante tells It’s Nice That, “Juan is very imaginative and talkative so I started recording him secretly with my phone.” Although most of them “had a really (really) bad quality”, this particular recording proved the best and included some of Dante’s favourite moments from the whole trip. With a little help touching up the sounds from Skillbard, Dante had the narrative for his animation set.

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-3

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

From here, he created style frames of every situation, “and then started moving from one to the next one moving things forwards, hoping it would fit the audio,” he explains. “At some point, I told Juan I’ve been recording him like a nut head, and that I could use some help with the style frames. So we started working together.”

The result is an animation created entirely in Flash which mimics the nature of conversation. Opening with the pair sat in a room chatting, the entire scene quickly morphs into a Tokyo street, packed with neon signs. Bullet trains, temples and karaoke bars quickly ensue, the entire frame never settling on a still image. “I think it’s fun to animate stuff that is constantly moving forward,” Dante responds when asked about this constant movement. “I also thought it would make sense with the voice over. I guess that’s how the flow of thought kinda works, going from one scenario to the next one without any sense of distance or logic behind it.”

Although My Trip to Japan is simple in its idea – an animated conversation – it’s one of those animations you genuinely want to watch over and over. Despite the fact that humans are reduced to mere yellow blobs with black lines for eyes and mouths, and the difference between one building and the next is ascertained by a change in flat colour, the video is packed full of detail. The constant flux not only suits Dante’s “childish and colourful, sometimes bizarre” style but means that there is something new to discover on every viewing.

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-1

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-2

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-4

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-5

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-6

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard

Dante-zaballa-my-trip-to-japan-animation-itsnicethat-8

Dante Zaballa: My Trip to Japan. Design: Juan Molinet, Dante Zaballa. Music: Skillbard