(Status: In Development)

St Custard’s School for boys is in dire trouble! Someone has been stealing school funds to pay off shady gangsters. The school is now broke and may have to close. Young pupil Nigel Molesworth suspects one of the staff. He gets wind of a devious plan to nobble the school’s star football player, bet against St Custard’s to lose the National Schools’ Cup Final at Wembley, pocket the cash and flee the country. Determined to stop the culprit, rescue their star player and save the school, Molesworth embarks on a chaotic and hysterical race across 1950s London involving bank heists, wild animals, smog, the Kray twin gangsters, stunt-driving double- decker buses, Winston Churchill and the Queen!

Director: Uli Meyer
Authors: Keiron Self and Giles New (Adaptation from Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle)
Producer: Camilla Deakin (Lupus Films, United Kingdom)
Co-Producers: Stephan Roelants (Melusine Productions, Luxembourg) and Uli Meyer (Meyer Studios, United Kingdom)
Target audience: Children
Technique: 2D digital / Drawing

Lupus Films, a UK studio we like to keep a close eye on, unveiled their new, attractive film project Molesworth. They teamed up with Uli Meyer for the 2D animation adaptation of the popular, long-running 50’s novels written by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by Ronald Searle. As you can see, they transformed Ronald Searle’s illustrations into delicately-drawn traditional 2D animation, a continuation of the timeless tradition of 2D animation. It left us with high expectations for the film. We interviewed the director Uli Meyer and the producer Camilla Deakin to hear the story behind this exciting film project.

Interview with Uli Meyer and Camilla Deakin

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the key points of your animated feature film project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?

Camilla Deakin and Uli Meyer: Our film is a comedy crime caper for all the family which draws inspiration from much-loved classic films such as the Ealing Comedies of the 1950s, but brought up to date for a modern audience in terms of film language and pace. The story is really a universal one, about school days, friendship and camaraderie and fighting for what you think is right. Molesworth is a naughty school boy who becomes the unwitting and unwilling hero of the day when he is forced to save his school, St Custard’s, from closure after the school’s funds have been embezzled in a mystery crime.

HN: How did the project start?

Uli Meyer: I was a big fan of Ronald Searle’s from childhood and then was lucky enough to meet Searle in 2008. I animated a short film based on Searle’s St Trinian’s characters which Searle loved, and following that he gave me sole permission to animate his characters. After that, I approached Camilla Deakin at Lupus Films as I had seen their previous film Ethel & Ernest, also based on a classic book property, and felt they would be the perfect partner. It turned out that Camilla had read the Molesworth books as a child and loved them too so it was a perfect match. After that we approached Stephan Roelants at Melusine Productions in Luxembourg to see if he wanted to be a co-producer on the film. Stephan loved the books and the amazing character designs and so he jumped at the chance to be involved.

HN: What aspect of the story from the original book series attracted you the most?

Camilla Deakin and Uli Meyer: The wonderful character designs by Searle are a huge part of the attraction, but also the hilarious writing by author Geoffrey Willans. Between us, we have come up with a cast of extremely memorable characters whose appeal has endured over the decades. While the characters are extreme, they are also instantly recognisable to a modern audience – the naughty schoolboy, the grumpy teacher, the tough-nut gangsters and so on.

HN: How did you develop the story for the film? Is the story based on the book series, or is it an original story for the film?

Camilla Deakin: The story is an original one that was conceived by Uli Meyer. We then appointed screenwriters Keiron Self and Giles New who developed it from there. Keiron and Giles have comedy writing experience and brought so much to the story in terms of gags and fact paced comedy action.

HN: Could you please let us know the most important characteristic and goal of the visual design of the universe for the story and characters?

Uli Meyer: It is important to us that the film looks hand-made and fresh and we achieve that by embracing the graphic brilliance of Ronald Searle’s masterful pen and ink illustrations. Using digital drawing tools, we are adapting his analogue, scratchy pen and ink line for the characters and layout in a way that works for moving images without being too distracting. The environments are rendered using Searle’s lively gouache and watercolour technique. The ultimate aim is to create a believable 2D universe and unforgettable characters referencing Searle’s vast oeuvre from the 1950s.

HN: Could we hear about your plan and vision of the music for the film?

Uli Meyer: We have yet to appoint a composer but the music would be inspired by classic film music from the 1940s and 1950s, and in particular the music used on the Ealing Comedies. A particular favourite who we are inspired by is Tristram Cary, who wrote the music for The Ladykillers.

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