Carlos Baena’s La Noria: Making a scary animated horror short

“We tried not to think of it as an animated horror film, but instead as a horror film.”

You may remember Carlos Baena – former Pixar animator and co-founder of Animation Mentor – who spoke to us a while ago about his then-upcoming animated short film, La Noria. Well that was then, and this is now. The film is out, and La Noria has hit the international festival circuit; it’s being screened in numerous festivals, already snatching up awards.

Baena’s short film tells the story of a young boy who loves to draw and build Ferris wheels as he encounters strange creatures that turn his life upside down. Here are 4 things we learned about the making of La Noria in chatting with Carlos.

#1. La Noria’s look is inspired by Victoria and Spanish Modernism and Art Deco


We wanted to push the aesthetics of your regular animated feature and take it to a more realistic, darker, and cinematic place. We gave the main character of the boy a stylized look and feel, while the architecture and decoration was a mix of Victorian (1837-1901) and Spanish Modernism and Art Deco (early 1900s).


 

 

Our Production Designer, Eve Skylar, created early renders with draw-overs on top of them. Once we were at the shading, lighting and compositing stage, we aimed to meet this original concept.

#2. Animated films can be scary too.


One of the biggest challenges in creating fear with computer graphics is making audiences forget that they’re watching computer graphics. Instead, you want to get them immersed in the story and characters.

From the start, we tried not to think of it as an animated horror film, but instead as a horror film. This included making use of localized and high contrast lighting, atmospheric effects, color treatment, specific types of sounds and music, etc. Ensuring that the animated nature of the film didn’t take away from the scariness was a challenge I enjoyed.

Main character in Carlos Baena's La Noria

La Noria - Carlos Baena lighting

Carlos Baena's La Noria

Carlos Baena's short horror film, La Noria

#3. Lighting and horror go hand in hand


I wanted a dark film. In the early stages, the film was feeling more cartoony than intended. We pushed back on that and kept moving towards realism.

Taking lights away was key in achieving the look – we wanted to get a film noir-esque lighting. In animation, it’s easy to over-illuminate, so we made a point of studying horror films to see how they made the lack of lighting work.


#4. The film took on a life of its own

There were some major changes that happened throughout the development of the film. We had to simplify the story a couple of times (both story and characters) because of the limitations in our resources, given that we were an independent production with no studio backing us up. We also simplified toward the end of production to find better rhythm and pacing in the film.

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