'Batz,' a Surprising Award-Winning Short Film
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Is there ever enough weird in your world?
By Carl Pettit
Imagine, if you will, an animated tale about a runt of a bat named Vamp on the hunt for a succulent mosquito. This determined bat, during a frenzied chase, chances upon a flying fox by the name of Rouss. Rouss, whose entire family was slaughtered by a band of suicidal mosquitoes — causing the poor creature some hard-core post-traumatic stress disorder — is dragged along for a fairly disgusting comical adventure. And these are just the opening sequences of the story brought to life by the French creative duo Max Maleo and Aurélien Prédal in their award-winning short Batz.
Growing up in Ivory Coast (his parents opted for a nontraditional life), Maleo came across enormous bats, as well as “mosquitoes as big as my thumb,” he explains. Later on, he realized those bloodsucking mosquitoes would make perfect cinematic bad guys. Flying foxes (bats with foxlike faces) entered the picture while he was working for an animation studio in India. On the way to Goa, he spotted bizarre, flying things in the trees and was “mesmerized by the animals,” taken with their adorable strangeness.
Batz was one of his and Prédal’s first ideas out of the Gobelins School of the Image in Paris — but it would have to wait. While Maleo cut his animating chops on films like Madagascar and Despicable Me, he developed Batz with Prédal over a distance. When ready, they pitched to several animation studios in Paris. Maleo “didn’t want to compromise” at all, as creative freedom was paramount to his and Prédal’s vision. Instinct told him to go with Kawa Animation. And as he tells it, he chose wisely.
The most difficult aspect artistically and technically, Maleo says, was “transforming Aurélien’s artwork and making it alive.” They had to find the right techniques to capture the beauty of the original angular designs for the digital landscape. From a financial standpoint, funding streams were the biggest challenge. Kawa provided the initial support by setting up the network and pipeline. Once things began chugging along, money also came from the intermittent du spectacle (an often-under-siege French system providing funds to creative artists in between contracts) and finally, during the rendering phase, from a Kickstarter campaign.
Maleo, who labored for long hours on the film, upped his time commitment to seven days a week during the final year of the two-year project. The result of his and his team’s efforts is an animated short like no other. A tale about a psychotic, mosquito-chomping bat and his less-than-willing vegetarian sidekick involved in a triangular relationship with a murderously unrelenting mosquito is one that’s bound to be unique.