“All life is connected,” says Christian Borstlap, founder of Amsterdam creative studio Part of a Bigger Plan about his latest work with Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo. In the beautifully textural and charming animation celebrating the circle of life, the short in turn pays homage to the zoo and its work.
“Artis wants you to connect with and be aware of all that is alive, to understand life better so, as a result, people start caring a bit more for it,” explains Christian. “From microbes to elephants to the planets, the zoo makes you see the bigger picture. Nature is under a lot of pressure – forests are declining, the climate is changing and there’s an extended list of animals and plants on the verge of extinction. With Artis, we felt it was time to show the greatness of life, and the interconnectedness of it.”
While it’s about nature, the animation features no real-life animals or organisms, instead employing figments of Christian’s imagination to convey themes and messages about nature and its cycle.
“There’s fur and feathers in the film, there’s poo and arses, there’s flying crawling and growling species, but there’s no real animals. They are depicting life’s features. It’s an abstraction of life. There’s some similarities to natural design, for example the plant stems are like a reptile’s scaly tail. That created an impression of life that felt logical, not artificial, and created an enormous amount of freedom for the execution, as nothing needed to be realistic.”
All the artwork for the film was hand-drawn by Christian, who also wrote the concept and script, and directed the animation produced by the studio. Much of his inspiration for the features, textures and organic structures and animals came from archival documents in Artis’ library.
Pulling it together was an overarching moral of humans’ place in nature, which Christian hopes will remind us what life’s really about. “The film shows that nature’s laws are actual and relevant for human beings; it became a bit like an incomplete guide for living. ‘Fight or flight’ is an instinct mammoths had, but we can relate to it as well. The film ends with the idea that ‘no one is an island’. It might sound political but from nature’s perspective, it’s scientifically valid. Human beings wouldn’t survive without certain microbes, plants, bees, insects, fishes, mammals and, let’s not forget, we are depending other people too.”