Michael Helmuth Hansen


Michael Helmuth Hansen

It was my destiny, I guess, to end up as an animator. Growing up on the north side of Copenhagen, surrounded by comic books in my parents' kiosk, the inspiration was right in front of me. The world of Disney was an unreachable dream, I thought, until that day in 1984 when I saw the ad in the newspaper: Asgaard film were looking for assistant animators for the Danish movie Valhalla. Jeff Varab, a former Disney animator, was the initiator of the project and he became my first teacher for what were to become a long and lasting carrier in the world of animation.

It’s been over thirty years now. Working on movies like ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’, 'Ferngully' and 'War of the Birds' I was living my dream, but there were dark clouds on the horizon. My profession was changing with the birth of CGI movies at the start of the 90’s, and I was unsure if it was going to be the end for my career. Being born in 1963, I hadn’t been growing up with the computer techniques, as kids do today, and it was a tough start when I finally took the jump at the millennium. It felt like being outrun by newer and younger artists. Clinging on, it took me some time before I understood that the experience I had actually meant something. CGI was just another tool, a bit more complex than a pencil, but still just a tool, and eager to learn more, I left the movie business in 2005 to join IO-Interactive as lead animator on the computer game Mini Ninjas. One thing is to learn a 3D animation programs like Maya or Max, another thing is being confronted with codes and level design. It was almost as if a monkey had to communicate with reptiles and foxes. Complex, but still intrigued, my hope was to implement my knowledge of traditional animation principle into computer game. Mini Ninjas took three years to finish and it was a fun and satisfying ride, but I had to be true to myself. My heart was aching for movies, and a job as director on the LEGO series Ninjago was impossible to resist. Storytelling was what I wanted and the cherry on the top was when Wil Film gave me the chance to do my own short film, Digital Romance.

Director's Intention

You can have the very best animators, designers or artists in the world, but that doesn’t help you if your first link in the process doesn’t work. That first link is, of course, the story and that has been my priority making Digital Romance. Storytelling is surely a dangerous area to enter, for what looks so easy to fix in others work can be so difficult to see and solve in your own. It’s a process of limitation and simplifying, rinse and repeat, and when you finally find the red thread it’s strange to look back, for what now looks so obvious, has been a long and trying road.

As a former 2D artist I wanted to combine the old look of traditional hand drawn animation with the new look of 3D movies. The audience should see the artist behind the CGI; pulling the 3D out of the characters and the environment, giving it a more flat and illustrated look. The acting has to be simple and believable, referencing more to reality than existent animation.

These things has been important for me doing Digital Romance, and hopefully the movie will stick a tiny bit out amongst the many 3D productions that’s out there now. A single heart or maybe two touched by Digital Romance, will be more than enough to satisfy me for all the work and effort that has been put into this production.