Celluloid Diaries: Caturday Movies - Kitten Instinct

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Caturday Movies - Kitten Instinct

kitten instinct

Dinosaur meets cat in Kitten Instinct


This week's Caturday Movie is Kitten Instinct, a Belgian short film about a Tyrannosaurus Rex who dreams about a cute little kitten. The dream ushers in a new phase of his life. Determined to recover the kitten, the dinosaur abandons his daily routine of hunting, eating and sleeping, and sets out to explore the world around him.

Celluloid Diaries had a chat with Liesbeth Eeckman about the similarities between cats and dinosaurs, her main inspirations, the biggest challenges while making her short film, and, of course, her own cat, Sputnik.

Also, she makes her film available to readers of Celluloid Diaries until August 31.


kitten instinct


“When I was starting my Master in Animation at KASK, I had more than a few ideas on my 'films-I-wish-to-make-list,'” says writer/director Liesbeth Eeckman. “One of those was a classic dinosaur movie that pays tribute to animators such as Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippet, Willis O'Brien, and Winsor McCay. Another film on my wish-list was to make a behavioral study of my cat, Sputnik, who I had then recently adopted.”

“There's something about cats that makes them so fascinating and mesmerizing - I can't get enough of them,” Liesbeth Eeckman explains. “The role of apex predator has shifted from the carnivorous dinosaurs to the big feline family, and the house cat is simply on top of it all as they rule the internet. So, in a way, both the cat as the T-rex have a similar position in the world: on top of it all.”

As Liesbeth Eeckman shares both of these interests with many other animators, she wasn't the first to have an idea for an animated movie about a dinosaur or a cat, so she decided to make her film unique by mixing these two interests into one film. To intertwine those ideas, she took the approach of the "funny cat video" as a documentary style and applied it to the violent world of “eat-or-be-eaten” of the dinosaur movie.

The result is both cute and gory. “It's a sort of protest against the idea that animated movies are for children and should thus play it safe,” Liesbeth Eeckman says. “And early stop motion depictions of dinosaurs in films also show them as savage, destructive and violent creatures.”

dinosaur short film

The film took two years to complete. The first year was spent on the writing of the story and the designing of the characters. Shooting started in the second year.

“I immediately knew it was ambitious and risky,” Liesbeth Eeckman explains. “The film shifts between the different states of consciousness of the T-rex, and to differentiate those states, I used a myriad of visual styles. From the point of view of the t-rex, the stop motion shows his reality, the 2D animation shows his dreams, and the flashes of 3D and live action show a world in between those two and also suggest that the whole movie could be a dream of a cat about a dinosaur.”

The dinosaurs were made from silicone and were later covered with fabric and feathers. As most recent research shows, dinosaurs were most likely covered in feathers. A lot of movies such as Jurassic World kept opting for the classical representation, so she wanted to make one of the first movies to take these scientific facts into account.

“As I visualized my idea, I felt it was necessary to animate with tangible characters to emphasize the physical nature of the dinosaur's interactions,” Liesbeth Eeckman says. “Unfortunately, the animation school where I went focuses on the making of 2D animation, so I had no experience with the use of stop motion. Kitten Instinct was a journey of trial and error, visual experimentation, and a lot of technical difficulties. Working in an animation technique I never practiced before, I learned a lot during the making and worked with an amazing crew of very motivated people that wanted to see my film succeed as much as I did. It's safe to say it was an intense two years that I spent almost exclusively living in the little world I had created outside of reality.”

sputnik cat

However, the star of the film is Liesbeth's own cat, Sputnik. “My boyfriend, Joël, and I adopted Sputnik after he was found as a stray. His beginnings were rough but now he is spoiled rotten,” she says. “He loves putting his toys in Joël's shoes, sleeping with us under the blanket like a tiny human, and being the center of attention during filming. I thought it was fun to animate the main dinosaur behaving like my cat. I hope people who see the movie will recognize the cat behaviors depicted by the t-rex. I always love it when I notice other cat owners reacting to my film.”

kitten instinct
dinosaur and cat

Kitten Instinct was a Master project. For her Bachelor, she made Biotopia, a 2D animated fictional documentary about animals that live in the zoo. It can be seen through this link. Her other student films can be found on her Vimeo channel.

Kitten Instinct premiered at the Animateka film festival in Ljubljana in 2016 and has since been screened at a myriad of other festivals including Festival Premiers Plans d'Angers (where it won the prize for best soundtrack), Stuttgart International Festival of the Animated Film, Offscreen Film Festival, Super Geek Film Festival, and many others.

She's currently working on the screenplay for a science fiction space film that will also be in stop motion and will be strongly inspired by the books of Stanislaw Lem.

Watch the movie trailer for Kitten Instinct



Watch the film


Can't wait to watch Kitten Instinct? Liesbeth Eeckman makes her short film exclusively available for readers of Celluloid Diaries. But hurry. You can only watch the film until August 31, 2017.

dinosaur meets cat

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