Monday, February 23, 2009

Hedgehog in the Fog

Updated to add screen grabs from my favorite moments of the film. The integration of live action water footage with the 2D glass layered animation was pure magic. I bought it completely. Perfection. The tree reveal is currently my favorite moment in ANY film, bar none. I have never seen anything so beautiful and poetic. Everything unexplainable about nature and trees was in this scene. How can something that wondrous be successfully achieved?

I also loved the amount of texture in the grass and landscape silhouettes. It felt real. I loved the quiet parade of the snail as it faded into the fog. I thought it was a wonderful feeling when the horse watched the hedgehog float down the river on the back of the fish. The use of light throughout the film was unsurpassed, shown off well in the scene where the firefly was used to hunt for the pot of jam until its mate flew in and lured it away. Pure delight.

This was far too majorly important a piece to stick in the side bar as just a Cool Find.

I saw this 1975 animation this morning on artist Victoria Usova's wonderful blog, Life as a Tea Party. It's the classic Russian animation based on a story by Sergei Kozlov, directed by Yuri Norstein. It's entitled, Hedgehog in the Fog (Yozhik v Tumane - ёжик в тумане) and is presented with english subtitles from the Russian.

I was stunned by this animated short film's direction primarily. There are moments in this masterpiece, my friends, where the director has fully realized pure visual poetry. The layers, the depth of the layering, the delicate sense of the fog, his choices of perspective, and more, make this quite possibly the finest animation I've ever seen to date. There are moments in this, specifically the snail, the tree, the pond water reflection, the stream water live action flawlessly blended with the animation, that are so close to what I'm aiming for with Halfland that it gives me courage to go for it even more.


  1. Hi Shelley, Jed is napping so I thought I'd leave a thanks for sharing this animation. In many ways it serves as inspiration for some of what I hope to do with Wanted, too, particularly in terms of live action mixed with stop motion, and narration.

    Speaking of, I've been trying to make barrels for a while now, being that I can't find any in any of the thrift stores, or even on ebay in the right scale, but then I saw your post about the one you made and I had an AHA moment - but then I thought - "I can't steal here technique!" Can I?

  2. Oh dear god, YES! DJ, I LOVE when people use the techniques here! Love it! I feel like I had a daughter a few weeks ago when a lovely animator in Turkey, named Yaz, used the tree building techniques here to build her own gorgeous gorgeous tree for her film.

    So, maybe you can be my barrel kid?

  3. Yippy! Thank you!

    I was attempting to make a barrel without a substantial structure inside (save 3 different sized styrofoam rings), and was failing miserably; ending up instead with a grade 2 coffee stick covered pencil holder.

    One question. Did that green floral foam come shaped like that, or did you carve it barrel-shaped? I've not seen any like it.

    PS. I met Yaz recently too. :o)

  4. Yes, you can shape the green floral foam with a butter knife and it cuts like butter too, smooth and easy. It holds it's form against the pressure of the staves after you strengthen it with the plaster mache.

    Best of luck!

    (It doesn't matter, but I can't tell from the small picture in your avatar if you are my barrel daughter or my barrel boy? Can't tell from the checked sheets, the pink top, medium length hair and the love of teddy bears. halp me?)

  5. That film is amazing!

  6. This is so wonderful!! Thank you for posting it. I have a friend who just got a baby hedgehog. I can't wait to show it to her too.

  7. Kind of creepy! I feel like I've seen it before, maybe when I was younger. I love the way the horse's mouth goes when she's eating in the fog. :)

  8. Thankyou so much for sharing this Shelley, it really is one of those animations that takes your breath away!

  9. I'm so glad you all enjoyed it, thank you for taking the time to comment!

    Elva, really? I get no creep in this? Maybe it's me--maybe I like creepy and didn't know! LOL

    Normally Russian animation is very somber and sad (I think it's the impossible climate there that makes Russians suffer through life).

    There were a couple of moments that took my breath away too, Ceri. The way the horse moved forward through the fog to nibble grass close up and the slow unveiling discovery of the tree. That could be the best moment in film I've ever seen. What a moment!

  10. I remember seeing this for the first time a couple of years and thought, bloody 'ell that hair in the gate just before the two minute mark really ruins it for me... Hahaha, yeah, not!

    There's so, so much fantastic Russian animation out there if you can find it. Bless those Youtubians! There's one I really love... I'll see if I can find it.

  11. oh yeah, I see it! Them Russians iz hairy! Maybe a nose or chesticle escapee.

  12. Haha, now all I can imagine is a Russian getting his nose hair caught in the camera... too funny.

    Those screen grabs are all wonderful moments. But that snail shot really could be straight out of HalfLand, who knew you were channeling a great Russian director.

    PS. I couldn't find that other film, but I will.

  13. Quiet moments of natural beauty in story book style prolly universal theme? ah, but I never saw a Russian snail passing by with her house on her back?!

  14. This IS beautiful, thanks for posting it Shelley. I particularly love the moment when he realizes he's lost his baluchon, and how it flashes onscreen as if flashing in his mind... AND how he darts around looking for it. Perfectly timed to the music.

    Lovely ending, too. He wonders about the horse, but doesn't know. Very cool.

  15. Well spotted and described great moments, Stephanie.

    I love it crazy.

  16. I wanted to be a hedgehog when I saw that big tree in the fog from hedgehog's eyes... What a beautiful animation!

  17. Totally, Yaz! The film makes hedgehogs of us all. That's what I most want from Halfland. That it gives a sense of quiet moments and natural sanctuary.

  18. What wonderful imagery.
    I just found your blog. I will be back again another time for a lengthier visit.
    And kudos to you for returning to your ballet. I have often considered doing the same.

    Pleased to meet you~


  19. Why, Welcome, Kelly! Happy to have you visit! Please come again. I love the picture of your decorated front porch and the song of birds on your blog. So peaceful, makes it like a retreat to visit you.

  20. Hi Shelley!
    Jed Bramwell here! Just popped in for a quick moment to answer your question. DJ would be your barrel daughter! But I be a ...erm, not sure actually?! hehee!! Hope that's not too confusing, but us bears ain't gots no bits!!
    Anyways, we are away at the moment and won't be back and updating Making Wanted for a few weeks, so see you then!
    Jed xo

  21. Oh! Thanks, DJ! So, I have a Barrel Girl and an none-of-the-above bear to boot then! Cool.

    See you when you return!

  22. I mean... Thanks, Jed! Gotta talk to the right visitor!

  23. Hi Shelly,
    What a wonderful film,,,think I will have to watch it several times, as it is a drop of genius.One of the things that delights me here in the south, is the fireflys,I had not seen one before, none in Oregon where I am from...I liked the way they were used in the film.I do imagine it was a turtle that got the hedgehog out of the river.
    I am glad you liked the little box of nature,I wrote you back,hope you find that email.I wonder if you could use cotton bowls?? The cotton fields are interesting and if I was a fairy I would rest in the bowls,,so comfy.
    I am discovering so many interesting things in nature here,I will keep you in mind while gathering bits of it... there are some amazing vines here too...they hang down from trees and twist around each other, muskadine vine, that spelling may be wrong...I will be watching for them in a minature form.
    I will go watch the film again,,thanks for posting it.
    We will connect again...
    Halfland is going to be amazing.

  24. Marcie! You are now Halfland's Official Naturalist! You have a real connection to what type and scale of natural plant materials are the most perfect for use in this magical world.

    YES!!! Cotton bowls, whatever they are! I once bought a branch of a cotton plant at the flower mart here, a rare find. It was had pods on it that had soft white cotton fluff in them. Is that a cotton bowl?!

    And the VINES!!! YES!! Please!!! I'll be able to use the twisted vines as a natural base that I could add artificial greenery on top of. (Otherwise, the natural leaves would turn brown and die.) But to have the real, small scale vines to use would be HEAVEN SENT!!!

    Should I send you a pre-paid box to fill up with what you may find? I think I will, just in case!

    Those insect wings!!!! They are AMAZING!! I'd take a picture of what you sent but my camera was destroyed last week. :(

    About the film, yes, isn't it marvelous!? I like to think the thing in the river was a turtle too, but the Russian speaking commentors on YouTube seemed to say it was a big fish. And when I look really really hard at the dark shadows of that scene I can see a fish. But I'll look again too to see if that's wrong.

  25. hey girl,

    very beautiful movie, i'm so glad you posted it, i love the meditative, can't wait till aedie gets home from school so i can show it to her.


    p.s. love the ballet know i gotta thing for girls w/ muscles!

  26. Oh yeah, Show Hedgehog to Aedon on full screen. I think she'll love it!

    And I should have said that I "felt like" my thighs could crack walnuts, hee.

    cuz I tried it after I wrote that caption--and I CAN'T!!

    You, my superhero, however probably in fact COULD!!!

  27. Hi Shelley,
    I emailed you at the yahoo place,,did you get it. I sent photos too. I forgot you answered comments here,,a good idea really.
    I will say that the plant you got at the flower mart sounds like a cotton plant, the cotton is in 4 sections. The vines are in the swamps, and I hope to go gathering this weekend, but only with my man as there are snakes and alligators, and he has long arms and is tall to reach stuff I cant, like vines. I dont know if this is the right time of year for new growth,,it may be early,,,have you thought of birch branches,,this is a perfect time for them. Very flexable,twistable, and last along time. I used alot of birch in Oregon, I dont know if they grow in your neck of the woods. No birch here.I may know some one who could send some to you from Portland Or.. I wish I knew you about a year ago when the season was just right to gather for you. some things may have to wait for nature. The insect wings are summer,, in july-oct...we will get some this year for sure...a concerted effort. My 61 year old husband is 12 at heart and dosent mind plucking the wings off of the bugs after they pass over. It will give him something to do. haha.. See if you can find a yahoo email with attached pictures.
    Hope to talk soon.
    The H.O.N.
    What an honor! I accept!

  28. (for other Readers, Marcie, The Rustic Victorian, is Halfland's Official Naturalist (H.O.N.). It would seem, after speaking with her by phone, that she's been coolecting KEWL stuff for Halfland for years without knowing it!

    Here's a run down,

    Pods that look like lanterns!

    Beautiful large insect wings!

    Tiny myrtle pods that look like beads!

    White feathery birch bark that could be mistaken for paper!

    Cotton pods filled with real natural cotton!

    A box of watch parts!


    You guys getting the picture?

    The more she mentioned things she had on hand, the more it fit uncannily with things I could use for the project! Weird and wonderful.

    Neither of us knew she was on my payroll until now!

    Marcie, I trust your intuition completely and whatever you are called to send here will be used with joy.

    Thank you!

  29. Actually, speaking of which, have you come across that Czech stop-motion animator? Been around for a while... did really spooky versions of Alice in Wonderland and Faust I think.

    Probably not for kids I wouldn't have thought. A bit scary. Quite... memorable though - the haunted socks are great.

  30. HI Fabulous writer and web designer, Nick!

    Hmm, Alice, Faust, Socks, doesn't ring my bell. I'll have to mosey over to my stop mo historian pal, site, Dark Mattrs and see what his clip library turns up. He'll know!

  31. Gosh, that really took me a long time to find... :)

    I think I love this because it is so simply put together but with such deftness as to create much more.

    PS. I finally (finally!) got around to watching the Nina Paley film. How AWESOME is THAT! At first I didn't really know what to make of it but once I came to terms with the different styles used together I just was lost in it. Really fantastic.

  32. Hey, Rich, thank you for hunting this one down, it's fantastic.

    I don't enjoy all of Norstein's films but there were several moments in this one that I dearly loved.

    The layers are thrilling to me. When the lace appeared in the far foreground at 2:46 I nearly shouted out an expletive on no swearing day.

    I loved how the tree tops were also Russian folk motifs.

    There was an eerily familiar moment when they came upon the abandoned or war torn village that was as if taken directly from Seven Samurai. Which came first I wonder.

    And a small moment after the embrace of goodbye, as the horses reacted quietly in the snow covered forest, was so marvelously evocative. It was pure and utter magic.

    About Sita Sings the Blues you mention above, yeah, it was really really good, eh? I thought it could be 1/3 shorter and been just as good. And I'd like the long opening to be much more brief. I assumed the entire film was to be in just the cgi style of the opening it ran so long.

    If she could have shown that the whole film was made of several different styles to tell the tale in layers straight away, I would have been even more impressed. But hey, it's her heartfelt art and the world knows I'm all about supporting someone doing that!

  33. I went to grab the link for Sita Sings the Blues here and happened upon the creator, Nina Paley's site where she's giving the film away freely and doing some very interesting things in terms of selling it. I applaud her forward thinking in this. She's really putting her booty on the line by saying that, just like software, culture should also be opensource.

    Rock on, Nina!

    Here's where to watch the film. Popcorn style, it's a full length feature.

  34. Yuh, and there's that part where they're swinging and the sun is bouncing through the trees in the background. For an old black and white they really captured the sense of summer in that scene.

    I'd definitely agree about the start and the tightening; it doesn't even have to be by that much. There were just times I thought what's happening in this other part (style) of the film or they jumped back into a style (like a song) without exploring the other ones properly. I think those are the areas that would indicate a cut or different edit were needed. But, having said that, for a five year project it was surprisingly 'together' the styles could have gone a lot further a field if one was not careful.

    If only she was selling a Sita Sings the Blues Sitar ;)

  35. Nina would be up for a Sita Sitar! She's open to anyone making anything with the art, just cut her in! Open Source Art--Cool!

    I explored the online world of Nina a bit today and can see why things didn't work out between her personality and her wimpy husband (he dumped her via email!) Seems her life is largely defined by victimhood in general, but then she's also a talented artist.

    Great works often come from a combination of pain and skill. Maybe all art.

  36. Nick H8:14 PM

    Nice to see the Norstein film again - layered effects tie in with the way you are doing your sky.
    Fish update: a photo of the tuna is at my Picturetrail site and will set off on it's long transoceanic migration shortly... will probably animate some swimming movements first.

  37. Oh WOW Vaowow! Nick that puppet of the Thunnus Steinwayii (Piano Tuna) Is FANTASTIC!@! Hilarious!! Wonderful! I can't believe you made this for the film! How'd I get to lucky?! Paul can't believe it.

    It's a fantastic puppet and a wonderful pun as well!

    If you want, it can be on loan here for a guest cameo and be returned to you for use in one of your works?

  38. Gah! Nick H, Shel, that is such an inspired take on the HalfLand theme. Perfecto! Awesome to see great ideas freely inspiring other great ideas.

  39. Hi Rich, tewtally! Piano Tuna! I'm screaming! How about piano tinkle sounds as it swims by!?

  40. I'm wondering if it's mouth works. It could very well have a wire armature in it. If so, you could have something float down through the water and then have Thunnus Steinwayii swim in and snatch it up which gives him reason to pause mid-screen so we can see him properly. A nice tinkley piano for the float down and then stronger chords for his grand (piano) entrance.

  41. Great, Rich! Love it! You know, Nick H, Rich, I'll wager that that pupp has a very movement saavy wire armature in thar.

    He said he's going to make his own movement test before sending it. Which, unfortunately for me, will be far better than anything I'll be able to pull off.

    Anymore direction ideas for the underwater scene are most most welcome! You can see all the fish in the slideshow. Oh, except one from.... YOU!!

    [Gauntlet throw down 2009 continues]

  42. I know! Send me one of those worms in the clip I didn't care for! That can be the bait for the Piano Tuna!!! Can you get one from the student? Would she?

  43. Dang that gauntlet! I shall rustle around, in between school, and find SOMETHING to make for you.

    The student is currently working in LA, and more unfortunately I was going to make the worms for her but it was a little too much for me head lump to take. So, from memory, I think she made them out of plasticine with no armature inside.

    So, what would a Piano Tuna eat... hmmm... I'll get back to you on that one.

  44. Ok, you don't have to make a worm then. I can do it like the beginnings of


    You know what I'd accept as fulfillment of the Gauntlet Challenge 2009? If you put a drawing of that great flying windsock fish-like thing you drew the other day onto cardboard and cut it out. I'll have it swim by in the halfseas.

  45. Or a fun lure! Like this!!?


  46. Thanks to your post I got to know of this film. It's interesting what you've to say of the perspectives of nature that've been captured. I would've thought that this is usually the difficult part in the making of an animation film, but if pulled off successfully few scenes can match this.

  47. HI and welcome, Anil! I didn't follow what you meant exactly but I got that you enjoyed seeing the short. I think you mean that it did something very difficult in terms of capturing the feeling of nature and that it is a very rare thing to be able to do. Is that right?

  48. Nick H12:35 AM

    Yes, the tuna can open and close its mouth. (Worms sound yummy for it...but a windsock fish would probably suck up the tuna!) Also pectoral fins move, eyeballs rotate, and tail goes from side to side. I did shoot a swimming test but have to clean up the background and put it into a little QT movie. I haven't seen the movement yet, I'm hoping it worked.

  49. Sounds incredible and fantastic, Nick! Piano Tuna, I'm still laughing!

  50. Ahem... sorry, yes. Off-radar for a bit.

    The director I was on about is Jan Svankmajer

    Alice is here

    with the sock scene here:

    It's one of those cult-classic type things... highly revered in certain circles but not likely to catch on because it's a bit like David Lynch meets Pan's Labyrinth with spooky Victorian dolls etc. Everything is battered and falling to pieces.

    Odd relationship with timing and repetition as well. Quite surreal.

  51. Now this is one of the best 10 minutes I have spent counting stars in a long time! Truly delightful. I am amazed at the emotion and atmosphere he could achieve in animation! I may have to borrow this one and share on my blog too...
    Thank you thank you!

  52. Great description, Nick T.! Thank you for finding that clip.

    It's only fair, Ulla, as I've used many many wonderful finds from your blog, not to mention met some of your phenomenal readers!


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