One summer in mid-’60s Norway, a seven- year-old girl asks her parents if she and her sisters can have a bicycle. Me and My Moulton provides a glimpse of its young protagonist’s thoughts as she struggles with her sense that her family is a little out of sync with what she perceives as “normal.”
Wistfully observing her best friend’s family, she compares their text-book domestic perfection to her unconventional household. Her loving yet hopelessly out-of-touch parents prove to be a source of quiet embarrassment and anxiety for the young girl.
With its bright palette mirroring the verve and energy of the times, this witty and poignant animation by Torill Kove, creator of the Academy Award®-winning short The Danish Poet, views the creativity and forward-thinking attitudes of the parents through the eyes of their introspective daughter. Me and My Moulton tells the charming story of a young girl whose sensitive nature sometimes makes it difficult for her to be honest with the ones she loves most.
A seven-year-old girl asks her hopelessly unconventional parents for a bicycle. But what kind of bike can you expect from a father who sports the only moustache in town and a mother who makes dresses out of curtain fabric? This witty animation by Torill Kove takes a look at adult obliviousness to childhood desires and the difficulty of being honest with your loved ones.
Torill Kove is an award-winning director, animator, illustrator and author. Born May 25, 1958, in Hamar, Norway, Kove lived in Kenya before moving to Montreal in 1982 to attend Concordia University. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Urban Planning at McGill University, then returned to Concordia to study animation, pursuing a lifelong passion for drawing and sketching. She won Kodak Awards for her student films All You Can Eat, Fallen Angel and Squash and Stretch. Kove also contributed to a number of animated productions for the National Film Board of Canada and illustrated seven picture books, three of which she authored as well.
Her 1999 directorial debut for the NFB, My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts (co-produced with Studio Magica in Oslo), was nominated for an Academy Award®. Her next film for the NFB was The Danish Poet (a co-production with Norway’s Mikrofilm), featuring narration by Liv Ullmann. It won the Oscar®for Best Animated Short in 2006 as well as a Genie Award. Both films were included in the Animation Show of Shows.
Kove made her feature film debut in 2013 with Hocus Pocus Alfie Atkins, based on the Alfie Atkins series by Gunilla Bergström. Her most recent NFB film, Me and My Moulton (2014, co- produced with Mikrofilm), recounts memories of growing up in a creative and unconventional family in 1960s Norway.
Lise Fearnley was born in 1969 in Oslo, Norway. She studied photography, film and animation. She began her animation career as Director of Photography for puppet master Pjotr Sapegin at Studio Magica. After a few years, she started working as a producer, and in 1996 she co-founded Mikrofilm AS with Kajsa Næss. Lise has been Mikrofilm’s CEO and producer since the start. She first collaborated with Torill Kove and the NFB on Kove’s The Danish Poet. Lise and Mikrofilm have produced a number of independent short films, as well as documentaries and a feature film. The company also does commissioned films. Lise is one of Norway’s most experienced animation producers.
Marcy Page has pursued an interest in animation for well over
30 years. Born and raised in California, she earned numerous international awards for her independent animation before joining the National Film Board of Canada in 1990. As a producer at the NFB’s English Animation Studio, she has sought out eclectic and unusual productions and co-productions that push the boundaries of the medium. These include Chris Landreth’s Oscar®-winning film Ryan, Torill Kove’s Oscar®-nominated My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts and her Oscar®-winning The Danish Poet, as well as the Oscar®-nominated films Madame Tutli-Putli, directed by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, and Wild Life, directed by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis.
Over the course of her career, Page has worked with both emerging and seasoned directors, helping to shape dozens of acclaimed narrative and non-narrative films that together have garnered over 250 international awards for National Film Board animation.
As the middle sister growing up in the 1960s in Hamar, Norway, Torill Kove desperately wanted to be like other little girls in her neighbourhood. Her parents, however—both modernist architects—brazenly celebrated being different. Kove’s mother crafted her daughters’ dresses out of flamboyant fabric from Finland. Her father grew the only moustache in town. When the sisters begged for a bicycle, their parents surprised them with a made-in-Britain Moulton, which featured an unconventional frame design and tiny wheels.
“I had a love/hate relationship with that bike,” recalls Kove, an award- winning animator, director and illustrator. “I remember we had biking exercises at school, and our bike was just hopeless! Our whole family shared it until it got stolen, which I found so weird, because who in their right mind would steal a bike that was so unusual?”
A few years ago, when Kove’s family gathered in Norway, they traded tales about their wacky childhood.
“I went on a storytelling rant about those dresses from Finland, Dad’s moustache and that crazy bike, and we were all howling,” recalls Kove.
These family stories are lovingly portrayed in Kove’s latest animated short film, Me and My Moulton, a co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and Norway’s Mikrofilm.
“It’s inspired by actual events, but the way I pieced the story together is fictionalized,” says Kove, whose favourite moment in the film features the sisters struggling to stay upright in the family’s three-legged dining room chairs. Those Ant chairs are actually quite famous: created in 1952 by Danish furniture designer Arne Jacobsen, they’re named for their ant-like shape.
“We fell over all the time,” laughs Kove. “I think that scene is really funny, with the parents just sitting there oblivious to what’s going on. They were engagement presents to my parents from my grandparents in the ’50s; I still have two of them.”
Although she pokes gentle fun at her parents in her film, Kove was greatly influenced by their creativity.
“They were very good artists and painters; my father loved to draw, and it made him very happy when I drew,” she recalls. “The truth is I really wanted to be an architect like them. That’s the middle child who wants to please everybody.”
Kove came to Montreal in 1982 for love, and fell in love with the city. She earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning at McGill University, but her passion for drawing and storytelling pulled her in a completely different direction.
“The economy was crashing and nobody was building, let alone planning anything. There was also the sense that urban planning just wasn’t me,” she says.
Kove studied animation at Concordia University, winning Kodak Awards for her quirky films All You Can Eat, Fallen Angel and Squash and Stretch. After her first year of study, she seized a National Film Board opportunity to assist award-winning animation director Munro Ferguson on his 1995 film When Dinosaurs Learned to Fly.
“Munro needed a tracer, and he was so great to work for,” notes Kove. “Then there were other assistant jobs that came up—I worked with Janet Perlman on a couple of productions—and before long, I was entrenched there.”
Kove never did return to school. Instead, she kept drawing, and drew inspiration from the talented people around her.
“Animation is a bizarre thing to do for a living, and at the National Film Board of Canada you’re surrounded by people who are doing animation in so many different ways; it’s such a nurturing environment,” says Kove. “There’s magic in being allowed to do something as a director where you have almost unlimited control—to have people around you who back you up with funds, equipment, peer support and reviews.”
Kove’s first professional film, My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts— co-produced with Studio Magica in Oslo—earned an Academy Award nomination in 2000. Kove’s grandmother actually ironed the shirts of Norway’s King Haakon VII during World War II, and the film combines historical events with fantasy. Kove paid special tribute to her grand- parents by incorporating sepia photographs of them in the film.
“I haven’t done that since, but I probably will, because it really brings you into the time. I had such a good time with that film,” she says.
“My excellent experience making films with the NFB and Mikrofilm are very much linked to my producers Marcy Page and Lise Fearnley. They both let me do my thing while they ‘take care of business’. Yet, they are always available to discuss ideas. I am very fortunate to have been able to work with them.”
Kove’s delightful 2006 film The Danish Poet—which explores how one man’s quest for inspiration leads to love—won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, catapulting her to stardom in her native country. It also won a Genie Award. Narrated by Norwegian- born actress Liv Ullmann, the 15-minute film reflects on life’s curious coincidences, missed opportunities and lucky breaks. Loosely based on a story Kove’s father told her about how he met her mother, the film’s message—that happiness comes from all kinds of circumstances— resonated with viewers worldwide.
Winning an Oscar sometimes changes the way artists work. Kove, however, has taken the accolades in stride. While she admits that it would be lovely to take home another golden statuette, awards are not a driving force in her creative process.
“Whether you win an award or not, you always want a new project to be wonderful,” she explains. “I’ve been very ambitious about Me and My Moulton. For me it’s more about: Will people want to see this? Will it be screened at festivals? I think about how people will respond and react, and what it will mean to them. That’s more important to me.”
Kove began working on Moulton shortly after completing The Danish Poet, but was soon tapped to direct Hocus Pocus Alfie Atkins, a Norwegian-Swedish-Danish animated feature based on the book by Gunilla Bergström.
“I just couldn’t refuse. That experience was so different—both great and weird and incredibly rewarding,” she recalls. “I learned a lot about what it means to be a director when you’re working on something that other people have created. You have to really figure out a way to embrace it and make it yours.”
Kove worked sporadically on Moulton during the three-year feature production. As with her previous work, she used a drawn digital technique to create the short film.
“I had a lot of help with the animation; the first chunk of it, which we managed to finish before I started the feature, was done in Norway,” she explains. “I did very detailed key drawings for the Norwegian team and they finished it off with some beautiful animation. We did it all with paperless animation which made it easy to follow the process in Norway from Canada. I had amazing teams both in Canada and Norway and I’m really grateful for the contribution from all the talented and dedicated people who have worked on this film over the years.”
Setting her story in the 1960s enabled Kove to drench the film in bright, lively colours.
“That’s an art direction decision that I made with this film. It looks different from my other films because the colour palette is brighter, and the backgrounds are quite simple.”
Kove worked with composer Kevin Dean—her husband—to create the film’s score which is inspired by the typical 1960s jazz sound of B3 organ and guitar... Moulton is their third collaboration. Norwegian narrator Andrea Bræin Hovig brought Kove’s characters to life. Even at her first audition in Oslo she sounded like she owned the story.
“Andrea’s first reading of the Norwegian version was so good that if we had just used that take, I would’ve been happy,” she recalls. “I just love her voice, and the fact that she’s not too exuberant; she’s a bit flat and distant. She just nailed it.”
The vivid colours and bold music play in stark contrast to the fact that Moulton is Kove’s most serious film to date.
“I really like the sad moment in the film, when Beatris’ father leaves, and the middle sister says, ‘I said nothing. I did nothing”, notes Kove. “Learning how to express empathy is difficult. This is one part of the film I really struggled with, because that moment was a turning point in my life as a child. But my best friend’s father didn’t leave: he died suddenly. It was my first experience with death, but at the same time, it was a very distant experience, because nobody around me talked about it.”
Kove considered incorporating the plotline about death, but ultimately opted to use divorce instead. She sent the final script and images of the film to her old friend, who was very generous and could understand why the story evolved the way it did... Kove hopes to develop a future project about how to react when someone dies.
“I’ve already written the script. Every time somebody in my circle dies— and as we age it happens more often—there’s always the question: What do I say?” she notes. “I have this very idealistic thought that I can say something that will actually make a difference. I have to re- learn each time that the only thing I can say is, ‘I’m sorry,’ which does make a difference.”
Kove’s life closely mirrors the themes she explored in The Danish Poet—happy coincidences and serendipity that lead us to our life’s purpose.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had so many experiences of being at the right place at the right time—having a window of opportunity open up and say, ‘Come in!’” she explains. “If I were to think of where I would’ve taken a different path, I think it probably would’ve been good to go to art school. There are probably many things I’d find easier if I’d had more training. But I’m surrounded by people who teach me things every day.”
Kove has also illustrated seven children’s books, the latest being the companion to Me and My Moulton, published by Cappelen Damm in Oslo.
“I love the immediacy of illustrating books,” she explains. “Three of my books are by Henrik Hovland—a series of great stories about crocodiles. He covers the basics of the human condition: feeling alienated, falling in love, having babies. I think there’s potential in more stories about the three sisters in Moulton.”
When Kove teaches, she tries to impart knowledge her students can’t find elsewhere.
“I’m not using any fancy technique. There’s no mystery about how I work: it’s just colour-filled drawings,” she says. “So I talk about the process of getting the story together, and storyboarding—the stuff be- fore the actual image-making. I tell people to make sure they like their stories, because they’re going to be stuck with them for a long time.”
Kove is considering developing a documentary film about adoption, thanks to a filmmaker’s grant from Norway.
“I have a personal fascination with films and stories about adoption; as an adoptive parent—my daughter is 11—I tend to shy away from them because there is no adoption story that pleases everybody,” she notes. “Everybody comes to it from a different angle, so I’d like to pursue that need many of us have for stories that affirm our individual experiences.”
Because Kove’s father died several years ago, and her mother has Alzheimer’s, Moulton has truly been a labour of love.
“My sisters love the story. They said it brings both of our parents back to a happier time. This is how we’d like to remember them: kind, loving, and doing their very best to be great parents. By and large, they got it right.”
Beginning May 2, 2014, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) marks 75 years of innovation and leadership in film and interactive media. The NFB is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 10 Webbys. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.
Mikrofilm AS is an internationally acclaimed production and animation company located in Oslo, Norway. Since 1996, Mikrofilm has been producing its own independent projects, which are the heart of the company, as well as commissioned work, including documentaries, commercials, short films, and music videos. Mikrofilm is proud to be working with some of the most talented people in the industry, and constantly pushes the limits to create new animation experiences.