Pombo Loves You is the animated short that turns the fond nostalgia of children’s televisions programs on its head. It tells the story of a distant father who is forced to confront his past-life, involving a tragic accident, as a 80’s TV mascot called Pombo. The film is director Steve Warne’s impressively captivating graduation film from the National Film and Television School (NTFS).
The short explores how experiences and the passage of time can alter our perception of something. “The idea of early television memories taking on a different meaning when looked back upon decades later seemed interesting. Then it was a case of finding the human story within that,” says Steve who has worked on films such as Kubo and the Two Strings and Wes Anderson’s upcoming animation Isle of Dogs.
“I met with our co-writer Josh Blaaberg very early on, realised we had a similar sensibility, and the story started to develop from there,” Steve told It’s Nice That. The pair then spent the next eight months working within a core team of 11 NFTS students to develop and animate Pombo Loves You.
The animation features a very specific aesthetic which is the result of the materials used, 80s references and its dynamic approach to lighting and cinematography. Most of the interiors and props, designed by Dana Anusca, are made of card. This was both a stylistic and practical choice in order to speed up the process of construction with limited time and resources. When it came to the characters, the team settled on a foam called Plastazote coupled with metal skeletons inside called armatures which enabled to puppets to hold their poses during the animation process.
“There was definitely a throwback to many of the shows that Josh and I grew up with. I think the most important aspect we wanted to capture was the feral energy of those kinds of live TV shows, like Fun House or Get Your Own Back. They genuinely felt dangerous and chaotic at the time,” explains Steve. However, the pair tried not to make any specific references to the 80s, finding it more useful to build on their own recollections as memory is at the heart of the story.
Steve also told us how they attempted to “attach those superficial and upbeat images with a deeper melancholy, which came out of thinking about some of the pop culture icons of the era such as Mr Blobby.” While researching, he discovered that a short-lived theme park had been built around the “Blobby universe”. The park is now completely derelict with the graffitied words “Noel Edmonds – stop pretending deal or no deal is more than it is,” on the rotting walls of Mr Blobby’s house. “I saw something captivating in this huge cultural icon of my childhood gathering dust,” says Steve. This subversive and strange mix of naivety and nightmare is carried through to the narrative and atmosphere of Pombo Loves You.
All too often with stop motion film, there can be a real fear of moving the camera resulting in “locked off shots” pointing down into the set, leaving the animation to play out like a puppet show. The film’s cinematographer Alastair Little had never worked on an animation before and so he naturally brought a live-action approach, meaning the team attempted shots that might usually be avoided because of their apparent technical difficulties. Pombo Loves You has a very “real” and cinematic feel because of this. When planning shots, the team also tried not to be too thorough, instead, improvising in order to inject a tension usually only possible when capturing actual humans.
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