Filmmaker: Gil Alkabetz
Year Made: 2008
Length: 6’ 04”
Technique: hand drawn
Night time. Behind the hills the sun is fast asleep and snoring. His alarm clock wakes him and he bounces up into the sky: after swatting away the stars he gets ready for the new day. He shaves with cloud-foam, cleans his teeth with rainbow toothpaste, grabs a bird and squeezes it to get a fresh egg which he then fries on his face. He peers down at the landscape, expectantly scanning it like a book, turning over the pages to different scenes.
With excitement, he sees a woman emerge from a little house with her dog. Eagerly, the sun combs out his rays, flicks the clouds away and beams down from a bright blue sky. He is disappointed to see that she immediately dons sunglasses and that both she and the dog put on big hats.
She joins a bus queue waiting in the shade of a tree, and again the sun is disappointed when the queue moves round the tree to stay in the shade. Once on the bus, the passengers pull down their window-blinds, but the sun nevertheless follows the bus as it toils up and over a big hill.
At the seaside, the sun gets ready to blaze away, but everyone immediately puts up their umbrellas. The sun performs a belly dance, but the people retreat into their tents for a siesta, and even the sea creatures scurry back into the water. The woman with the dog buys an ice-cream from a van; the sun fancies one too, but his attention frizzles up the van and melts all the ice-cream.
When the clouds all evaporate and even the birds put on sombreros as they fly past the sun, he decides to pull off his rays and sink, defeated, into the sea. As he sinks, he notices a camera flash. Everyone is lined up on the beach to watch the sunset, taking photos and applauding.
Delighted to have got their attention finally, the sun leaps up for one last spectacular dive into the sea in a blaze of colour, to the sound of applause. The stars return and the sun starts snoring again.
This was my second children’s film on the theme of Time. The first was about a year, and the protagonist was a tree. This is about one day, so the protagonist is the sun. It also makes indirect references to the theme of global warming. I’m planning further films about a month and a week.
The filmmaking went really well, but when it was finished the crew didn’t like a bit at the beginning, so I had to go back and change it even though I’d completed all the editing and music. But the film works better with that change.
The film is made to look as simple as possible, but I wanted it to have a bit of a personal touch so I asked the ink tracer to make the tracing a bit ‘dirty’. This was hard to control so I had to go over each drawing again afterwards in Photoshop. I also wanted to have the colours not completely overlapping the outlines. This meant a lot of extra work on each frame. So both these ideas took a lot of time.
Things you might notice
• Ways in which the animation looks ‘clumsy’ and ‘unrealistic’: the rough, ‘sketched’ look of the sun’s features; hasty and jerky movements eg the bus queue, the starfish and the crab; the use of ‘boiling’ (deliberately not creating smooth movement, as with the stars at the beginning).
• The use of non-verbal reaction sounds: grunts, squeaks, etc. together with very simple changes of expression (children could easily try this themselves in PhotoStory or other simple software).
• The modality ‘rules’ for what the sun can do: some are fantasy (eg frying an egg on his own face, producing a pair of hands and implements such a a comb or a fly swatter when he needs them) and some are realistic (eg the shadows, the heat of the day, the evaporation of clouds, melting ice-cream).
• The two-dimensional framing: all movement is sideways across the frame and each image has very little depth, so that it’s possible for the sun to bump into a hill and for birds to have to change direction and fly under the sun.
Themes to explore
Time: How does the film manage a time-scale of at least 12 hours in just six minutes, and with what appears as more or less continuous action? How time is managed in narrative is an interesting problem that both filmmakers and writers have to address. Equivalents in film to verbal time markers such as ‘then’, ‘later’, ‘after a while’ etc are transitions such as fades, dissolves, and cutaways (see Crib Sheet, pp 51-59 for explanations of these devices), but none of these appear in A Sunny Day. Instead, the film is punctuated by moments of ‘thought’ by the sun as he ponders what’s happening and then looks to see what’s happening next.
Humour: Whether or not the children find the film funny, it can be interesting to explore what does or does not make people laugh – although of course you may not want to spend much time on this if they were not amused by the film! There are many ridiculous ideas in the film that are designed to amuse: some little touches you may not notice on a first viewing are the ‘shut eye’ click on the alarm clock, the appearance of spectacles as the landscape suddenly turns into a book that the sun is scanning, the fact that in one sequence the sun’s own nose casts a shadow. But what might put some viewers off is the sense that the filmmaker is trying too hard to amuse.
Character: The sun’s own character traits are the main feature of the film so there is potentially a lot here to discuss, re-view and perhaps experiment with in children’s own drawing and writing. Expressing different emotions through drawings of faces or even abstract shapes, using a minimum of dots and lines, and through different non-verbal sounds, could be explored before considering the words that could be used to express similar ideas. Hopefulness and disappointment are the predominant emotions in the film, underpinning the filmmaker’s theme of ‘never giving up’; but the sun’s elation and bashfulness at the end could also be explored, perhaps through drama: how do you feel when everyone is looking at you? Or when everyone is clapping you?
Sunshine: There is an ambivalent message about the sun in this film: we think we love it, but too much sunshine is bad for the planet. The film presents us with an unusual point of view by making the sun the central character: does this make the ‘global warming’ message more, or less, effective?