A Splash in a Mud

Plic ploc plic ploc! The rain invited itself in the field of the Horn Quartet.
Marguerite, Aglaé, Clarisse and Rosine are huddled together under the shelter and are angry at the bad weather. When it rains, it’s impossible to have fun!
But impossible is not Charly! This little piggy full of madness will teach the four cows that we can make rhyme creation with precipitation.

Film Credits
Director: Emmanuelle Gorgiard
Scriptwriter: Emmanuelle Gorgiard
Artistic director: Jean-Marc Ogier
Animation: Souad Wedell, Marie Cattiaut, Gilles Coirier and Goulwen Merret
Music: Vincent Burlot
Executive Producers: Jean-François Le Corre (Vivement Lundi!, France) and Mathieu Courtois (Vivement Lundi!, France)
Co-Producers: Marc Faye (Novanima, France) and Magali Hériat (Novanima, France)
Techniques: Puppets / Stop-motion
Target audience: Kids
Running time: 09 min

A Splash in a Mud is a charming and comfortably-paced stop-motion short film targeting children, which is nominated for “Young Audiences Short Films in Competition” and premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2021. The film depicts a story of four cute and chatty cows who learn and experience new things by playing together with a friendly pig they encounter.

We heard the story behind the creation of the film from Emmanuelle Gorgiard, the director of the film.

Interview with Emmanuelle Gorgiard

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): What do you want to deliver to the audience the most through this film?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: From a very young age, children learn that there are rules in society. So, they gradually give up the freedom that is specific to children and which has allowed them (at the cost of a few bruises and stains) to discover their world. If these societal rules make it possible to grow up in relative harmony with others, they can also, by “domesticating” children, determine their prejudices and inhibit their natural taste for adventure and experimentation. I hope with “A Splash in a Mud” to awaken the desire of the public to take advantage of what life has to offer, such as splashing in the mud for example, to find a bit of freedom.

HN: This film tells a story of four cows, Aglaé, Clarisse, Marguerite and Rosine, who grow together through an encounter with a new friend, the same as with your film Dorothy the rambler. How were these four appealing characters born? And what do you think is the strength or attractiveness of the four characters in telling a kid’s story?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: These four cows were born from the imagination of Yves Cotten, author and illustrator of the children’s albums The Horn Quartet that Jean-François Le Corre, producer at Vivement Lundi !, suggested that I adapt for stop-motion.

The film focuses on this group of young cows confronted with boredom by revealing the weaknesses of each, the conventions that hold them back or their ability to push their limits. All children experience feelings of jealousy, abandonment, resentment, and so on at one time or another. They are also capable of mild madness like the characters in the film.

HN: Where did the initial idea of the story come from? What did you focus on when you wrote the story for the film?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: I live in Brittany (like Yves Cotten), it’s a magnificent region but it’s also has the reputation of being rainy. Unlike the cows for whom the rain is synonymous with boredom, Charly the little pig really likes this “bad weather”. I imagined the film as a musical so that this little pig could transmit his joy of living to the quartet (and the audience).

By taking an interest in each of the cows, Charly allows them to express their uniqueness. But the situations that it generates provoke some conflicts, such as the one between Marguerite the coquette and the other cows who had little resistance to following Charly in the mud. Or the game that annoys Aglaé: she must smear her face with mud to the delight of the three others.

HN: I would like to hear about the film project and its production. How did the film project begin and how did you build the team?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: I worked with the same team as for “Dorothy the rambler”. We used this experience to improve the production of this new film whose economy was very constrained. A clever way of cutting allowed us to avoid the construction of bulky backgrounds. The plants made for Dorothy were recycled to feature the flamboyant foliage in “A Splash in a Mud”. The new dresses, which were removable, facilitated in many dressings.

Finally, the chance to benefit from the four film sets reduced the time-consuming installations of decor and light. So, we are very well prepared if a new film of the quartet were to be announced…

HN: Could you let us know the story behind the visual design of the characters and sets?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: The aesthetic was built on a basis of simple and stylized volumes. The cows walk on two legs and they wear dresses with only black or white patterns to distinguish them from each other. The look of Charly, the pig, matches this design. His head is a sphere with a protuberance to make the snout, and he has a small tummy. This stylization is found in the gestural grammar of the characters and in the animation.

The sets seek the same kind of simplicity in the representation of a “country cabaret”. The idea was to make the rain and the grayness attractive. The mound where Charly sings and dances is a stage bordered by trees with flamboyant foliage as if they were lights. The shelter of the cows is a lodge where they attend the performance of the pig. The trees in the foreground have no other thickness than the woolly material which constitutes them as well as the clouds which are simply tangled mohair threads. This frontality accentuates the theatricality of the film’s universe.

I like to make visible what the elements are made of (natural materials, strings and ropes, wool, colored and patinated tissue paper) and their assembly. It seems to me that the closeness of this hand-made quality to stop-motion creates a connivance with the public.

HN: Could you let us know the story behind the music of the film?

Emmanuelle Gorgiard: It is through dance that Charly establishes his character and humor. The repetitive plop of the rain triggers the first piece which makes this mambo ace appear in the world of the Quartet, until then resigned to bad weather. Contrary to the autumnal and humid climate of the images, the music gives emotion to the heat, the sun and the party.

Vincent Burlot and I have already worked together on Dorothy the Rambler. As a brilliant melodist and versatile performer, Vincent immediately seized the playful spirit of the film, sometimes bordering on a funky, almost disco universe. His vocal qualities allow him to go up to the soprano. He sang the voice of Charly and directed the singing of the actresses. He is also the one who performs Charly’s dialogues.

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