Adam Elliot talks Claymation Memoir of a Snail with Sarah Snook

You could call Adam Elliot the Australian Nick Park. But while the British Wallace and Gromit The creator and his studio Aardman moved from award-winning claymation shorts to big-budget animated features made with Dreamworks (Chicken coop, Rinsed) and Netflix (Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nuggetthe next Wallace and Gromit film), back in Melbourne, Elliot kept things small.

His entire filmography: The three short films Uncle (1996), Cousin (1999), and Brother (2000), two medium-length films Harvey Krumpet (2003) and Ernie Biscuit (2015) and his two feature films: Mary and Max in 2009 and the Memory of a snail, together, they arrive around 4 o’clock. You can become an Elliot completist in just one afternoon session.

Three decades of career, with an Oscar to his credit (best animated short film for Harvey Krumpet in 2004), Elliot continues to tell the same kind of stories: darkly funny semi-autobiographical tales of outsiders, mostly living in 1970s Australia, using the same homemade stopmotion techniques. No digital animation required.

His last, Memory of a snail, is very much an Adam Elliot film. Set of course in Australia in the 1970s, the film stars Successionis Sarah Snook as Grace Pudel. A shy girl born with a cleft palate, Grace grows up with her wild and sometimes arsonist twin brother Gilbert (Kodi Smit-McPhee) but, frightened by sadness and death, she eventually becomes a solitary collector of ornamental snails, his only friend a savage. octogenarian named Pinky (Jacki Weaver). Eric Bana, Dominique Pinon and Nick Cave provide supporting vocal work.

Ahead of Memory of a snailAt the world premiere of this year’s Annecy Animation Festival, Adam Elliot spoke about the “balance between light and dark” in his films, modeling clay as a “form of therapy” and the reason why, instead of going to Hollywood, he plans to “stay here in a little Melbourne and continue telling my little stories.”

Animation takes a lot of time and stop motion even more so. What was the starting point for this film and what was the idea that made you want to dedicate so many years of your life to this story?

It really started when my father died. He was a bit of a collector. And my mother, who is still alive, is sort of a reformed collector. I became fascinated with why they collected all these things. When does a collection become a treasure? And when does it become a problem? That was the trigger. I have a very close friend who was born with a very severe cleft palate and has had numerous surgeries throughout her life. And she is now so outgoing and, in many ways, the complete opposite of what she was as a child. And so those two ideas came together very quickly.

And there’s a lot of myself in Grace, too. My films are always based on my family and friends but I can’t help but also put a lot of myself into the characters. The scenario has undergone numerous transformations. I think…

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