Re-adapting a pre-existing character in a new medium is no small feat, but Norwegian animation studio Qvisten, is not one to shy away from such challenges. They released feature animated film Captain Sabertooth and the Magic Diamond, in 2019. The film, based on the iconic Norwegian theatre plays of Kaptein Sabeltann, have been performed onstage since the early nineties. Since then, the character of Captain Sabertooth has been portrayed in various TV shows, books, comics, and games, becoming an inherent part of Norway’s pop culture.
Despite this impressive body of representation, Qvisten created a version of Captain Sabertooth that is fresh and exciting, while still being authentic to the original character. We spoke to their production designer Are Austnes, to find out how they mastered that perfect balance.
The beginning of Captain Sabertooth and the Magic Diamond
Qvisten was first presented with the opportunity to create their film following the release of a Captain Sabertooth live action movie. At this point in time, the creator of the intellectual property wanted to shift gears to see how the medium of animation could bring a new dimension to Captain Sabertooth that was less realistic, and more imaginative.
“Our studio has worked with a lot of Norwegian IP’s.” Are explained, “The creator of this IP saw how we took care of previous ones and how we worked on finding the soul in each of them. He actually came to us believing that we were the right people to bring his IP to a new level.”
The power of animation
The medium of animation allowed Qvisten to make use of a large range of storytelling devices in their film, with fewer restrictions. For instance, this meant that they could explore a variety of environments. “In an animated feature film,” Are said, “we can introduce grand new locations and create the feeling of traveling great distances to magical places.” Evidently, this is more complex to achieve on stage, and certainly more expensive to achieve in live action.
Are also pointed out that the use of animation allowed them to explore greater character possibilities. “We could write in different types of characters like an army of monkeys and meat-eating plants,” he explained. Ultimately, this meant being able to bring a more whimsical twist to the story.
Speaking to audiences of all ages
Another fresh spin that Qvisten brought to their film was creating a story that was appealing to audiences of all ages. This contrasted previous versions of Captain Sabertooth, that were typically aimed at either young or adult audiences. “We’re the first ones to combine the tone from the mysterious and more grown up theatre plays with the simple and younger tone from the books, within the same movie,” Are explained. To do this, Qvisten paid special attention to character design so that their characters would appeal to audiences of every generation. “The design had to be very balanced so that you could take the characters seriously like you would in any epic story, but also laugh in the humorous sequences.”
“The design had to be very balanced so that you could take the characters seriously like you would in any epic story, but also laugh in the humorous sequences.”
Are further pointed out that, “children tend to care more about episodes than overall plot. We had to create a story with complex characters that was interesting to an adult audience, but fill it with funny episodes for the kids to enjoy.” By bridging these age gaps, Qvisten was able to create a comprehensive film that could be appreciated by just about any audience.
The challenges of revisiting stories
For those wanting to re-adapt a pre-existing story or character into an animated film, Are said, “One of the most important things to understand is the difference between storytelling in a book, a theatre play and a movie. A great book does not necessarily make a great movie, because the storytelling tools you have in the two mediums are so different. For example, one of the great strengths of a book is inner dialogue, something that does not work very well in movies. The main importance here is to understand what is good about the IP for the medium you are working in. What can you bring to the IP in your medium that was there already?”
"The main importance here is to understand what is good about the IP for the medium you are working in."
The team at Qvisten uses the Media and Entertainment Collection to create films like Captain Sabertooth. The added value of the Arnold 5-pack makes it a no-brainer. Find out more about the Media and Entertainment collection.
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