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Big Plans

Filmmaker: Irmgard Walthert
Country: Switzerland
Year made: 2008
Length: 3′ 58″
Technique: 3D model animation


We hear busy noises before the first images appear, and then see a series of close-up shots of cardboard being cut, plans being consulted, a gadget being constructed out of a tin can and a wire whisk, and a doll’s arm being cut off with scissors and used to make part of a machine of some sort. On the sound track is a ‘traditional’ brass band melody. Finally we see the face of the inventor who stops to think for a moment and then bends forward again to adjust something, before inserting a coin into the machine and waiting for something to come out. Nothing happens.

Puzzled, he adjusts the plan. In the background, a baby starts to crawl past. The inventor tries another coin: this time a metal screw comes out. He bangs the cardboard side of the machine in frustration. He notices that the baby is doing something in the background, but turns again to his machine and inserts another coin, kissing it for luck. This time, orange sludge comes out. Sitting back and taking off his glasses, he looks round to see what the baby is doing. The baby pushes a ball which sets off a chain reaction involving toy cars and animals, bricks and other little objects, ending in a sweet being shot back into the baby’s mouth. The baby looks smug; the inventor looks puzzled, then smiles faintly.

The inventor stands by his machine, now positioned in a street. We can hear noises of traffic and passers-by. Someone stops to look at the machine and, encouraged by the inventor, inserts a coin. An apple drops into the tray. More satisfied customers follow, and the inventor starts to dream of all the things he will be able to buy with the money: lollipops, a football, a Superman toy. Then a different noise is heard and he realises something is wrong: apple cores are piling up in the tray. Peering at the machine, he’s taken aback to see the baby’s face burst out of the front. The baby ‘walks’ the machine away as the inventor looks on helplessly.

Filmmaker’s comments

I’m fascinated by the worlds that are created in animation films. As a director I can build a world that has different rules than the world we are living in, but by doing this I reflect the world we are living in.

The idea came from a funny story in my family when I was a baby: two of my brothers played a similar trick on their younger brother when he was trying to build a ‘machine’. When I came to make a film of the story I involved my brothers: one made the end titles and another composed the music. It was nice, but also challenging, to work with them. We hadn’t done that before.

Things you might notice

The use of close-up. Most of the story is told in close-ups, which can be seen as appropriate to the size of the protagonists and the fact that the main part of the story takes place on the floor, but is also a good demonstration of the fact that stories can be told economically in close-up and that we don’t need to be shown more.
Setting and other characters indicated by sound effects and reaction shots. In the ‘street’ scene we only see the machine, the inventor and a wall: another ‘prompt’ for children considering how to provide minimal clues and information when they tell a story (whether in writing or in film).
Clues about the age of the inventor. He looks like a ‘proper’ inventor in spectacles and a white coat, but there are clues that he is quite a young child: the cardboard spectacles, the relative size of his hands and the tools he is using, the clumsy plans and machine, the things in the toy box and that fact that he is working on the floor. Finally his fantasies about being ‘rich’ show the modesty of his ambitions.

Themes to explore

Timing: This is important in this film for creating its humour and if the children find it funny you might want to explore how the baby’s two ‘interventions’ are hinted at before they are revealed.
Improvisation vs laborious construction: The baby and the inventor represent two different approaches to creativity: which do the children think might win more approval in school?

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