How did you get to what you are doing now? Did you study to become an animation artist?
I studied human rights in the university, meanwhile working in the studio that specialized in visual effects in cinema and advertisements. I was interested in all the aspects of animation film production: from the creation of the script to technology of making puppets. So I watched the course of Stan Winston School and had a lot of practice. I was planning on getting my master’s degree in SCAD (USA). As a result l got interested in stop-motion. Now I am creating animation films and puppets for TV series in my own studio “Red Deer”.
Tell me about your latest creation Cheetah. This puppet has quite an unusual mechanism.
It most certainly differs from my other works. The figure is made of silicone. It has a big ball-jointed head, the certain surfaces on its muzzle are magnetic: it allows to change the mimic of the mouth, the position of pupils and eyebrows.
The style of the characters from “Mr. Deer” makes a striking contrast with the jolly Cheetah. Where did the idea come from? What was your inspiration?
The cheetah is made in simplified, fun style for the cartoon series for kids called “Frendies’ Park”. “Mr. Deer” targets adult viewers. My first trip to Russia inspired the creation of it. In the year 2013 I applied for participation in the festival “Pismo k cheloveku” (“The letter to the Human”) the St. Petersburg’s subway amazed me immensely, so every day I rode the subway instead of attending the festival. I observed unusual details and the passengers. The gloomy setting, chill, the noise of trains, moody people-the atmosphere was captivating! On my return home an accident happened in the Iranian subway. All of this became the core of the film’s script.
How many people worked on this film? Do you have your permanent creative team?
I gave a lot of classes on design and animation in my country. For the work on “Mr. Deer” I selected ten best students-they became my team.
Tell me about the technical peculiarities of the stop-motion puppets. How did you make the characters of your film?
We made models for each of the characters, moulded them. Then we filled the forms with silicone. There was a ball-jointed skull inside each head. It is possible to control the mimics of each character through the small holes in the skin made of silicone. Similar puppet mechanism was used in Tim Burtons “Corpse Bride”. There a lot of various techniques of creation of heads in stop-motion animation.
First of all, the character has to express different emotion with its face, the articulation should be in sync with the speech. It is common to make the fragments of the face removable for this reason. The smoother the change of facial expression-the more details are required. Cheetah, for instance, has removable details of the nose and mouth, there are seven of them.
Were any subsidies or grants allocated for the creation of “Mr. Deer”? What are your thoughts in regard of the financial support of animators in Iran?
We got a grant from the government. It wasn’t big, but it covered all the expenses of production. You can sell the quality films to broadcast them on television, including foreign. The TV channel Arte France bought our “Mr. Deer”.
A lot of people in Russia watched your film in the group called “Short Films | Animation” in the social network Vk.com. Why did it come as such an unpleasant surprise to you?
I had no idea that my film was available over the web! We didn’t put it on the Internet with free access for two reasons. First of all, the film was still participating in the festivals. Second of all, we sold the rights to it to Arte France TV and under the contract had no right to put it on the internet. By all means I am glad that the fans of animated short films saw my work, but every film needs some private time before release, the time when it can be watched only during festivals. The losses could be more significant, were the film full-length, because it could be fully dependent on the box office. It’s no joke! The copyright infringement influences the overall quality of film industry. If the work isn’t paid, the result gets uglier and more primitive.
What animated films and animation studios do you consider landmark today, and is there any Russian representatives among them?
At the moment the animation studio “Laika” (“Coraline», “ParaNorman”) is my favorite. Only in eleven years they managed to grow into the most powerful and famous stop-motion studio in the world. The second place in my personal charts takes the English animation studio “Aardman” (“Wallace and Gromit”) I didn’t know much about Russian animation till my last trip. I really liked the animated film “Linden Tar” that you had shown to me. It is truly a good work. In Moscow I visited the studio “Sojuzmultfilm” and the studios ” Melnitsa” and “Ricky” in Saint Petersburg. The history of Russian animation is amazingly rich. I am not speaking only about puppet animation, but also about sand (powder) and cut-out animation. The cartoonist Alexander Petrov is famous all over the world. There are a lot of his admirers in Iran.
You have mentioned the people in Russia being cold and the atmosphere being gloomy. But still, you came back. Why?
I write the scripts by myself, and unusual setting contributes to creativity. Russians are tough, complicated people, they differ greatly from the Iranians. It isn’t repulsive to me. For me as an artist it is interesting to observe all the differences in culture and society.
What can you advise our readers, the beginners and the professionals in the field of animation?
To look around very attentively, to be immersed in stories and devour the quality works. Not to shut everything out, stay open to the world. To be inspired by nature, history and culture of your amazing country.