“I believe our childhood ends when we lose faith in happy endings”
With an appealing story concept and a series of special effects tickling the youngsters’ senses, THE MAGIC TREE is successfully touring the festival circuit, received enthusiastically by every young audience.
A giant, magic oak is knocked down by a storm. Not aware of its special features, people are using the wood to construct all sorts of objects, each one of them still preserving some of those magical powers. Two children in search of their parents come across a chair made out of magic wood: it fulfils the wishes of everyone sitting on it.
Maleszka: “THE MAGIC TREE started as a successful television series, sold to many countries. Every episode followed the track of one of those objects, made out of magic oak wood.”
Why did you decide to use the chair particularly for your film?
Maleszka: “A chair is something every child recognizes very well. I believe in “everyday magic”: giving magical power to simple objects. Like the chair choosing this particular family in need. That has to do with destiny. Magic is always the fulfillment of our yearnings.”
How did you bring the chair to life?
Maleszka: “I wanted it to be a real chair but with some features of a little child: unpredictable and sometimes clumsy. A team of animators moved the chair around the set like a marionette, afterwards using computers to “rub out” the ropes and lines as well as the puppeteers. In other scenes we simply created a 3D chair with the computer and had it cropped into the images.
The most difficult scene was the one with the chair is driving a scooter. The scooter was steered by a remote control but it didn’t always work so well. The chair chose it’s own direction. Until it went right through a shop-window. That was never the intention.
I want special effects to be creative. Children really like to be taken by surprise. Some scenes in THE MAGIC TREE, like coins dripping from a tap or a giant water slide emerging from the sea, are really fascinating for them.”
How do you see the role of children and adult characters in you films?
Maleszka: “Children need to see children on screen; they want to watch their peers. Unfortunately in today’s family movies children tend to be neglected. Producers are desperately trying to make films matching everybody’s taste: dad, mum, the teenagers… There’s not much left for children. That’s why in my films I show the adults from a child’s perspective.”
By using magic chairs?
Maleszka: “THE MAGIC TREE is set in the real world, combining magic with children’s everyday life. The most fascinating question for children is: “What would happen if…?”. By using magic in my films I show many possible answers to that question. Watching films like THE MAGIC TREE should give children the courage to set out, to trust in their own strength. The magical powers in my films are the inner powers of a child.
Some children’s films are trying to paint a realistic picture by using a gloomy and depressing view on the world. That is a deep misunderstanding of a child’s perspective. Children have an amazing inner strength; even in the most terrible circumstances they believe in a happy ending. I believe our childhood ends when we lose faith in those happy endings.”
What inspired you in creating the evil villain in your film?
Maleszka: “Max is ruthless and obsessed with money. He is willing to do anything in order to get rich. I don’t like those clumsy crooks in children’s movies. The exhilarating feeling when good conquers evil is stronger if the villains are really bad. However, I always give them a second chance. I allow them to make up for their wrong-doings and avoid the punishment. It’s a bit like with children.”
Today you seemed to really enjoy watching your film together with a young audience.
Maleszka: “Adults usually watch movies from a comfortable distance. Children on the other hand, seem to be inside the films’ action. I believe this is the best possible way to watch a film. I especially like watching my films with a foreign audience since I believe that children’s film is the last truly universal movie genre. A good children’s film should be clear and understandable for children from all countries and cultures. That has nothing to do with globalization, I simply believe that when we are children we belong to a universal race. Only when growing up we start to differ according to where we live and whom we meet. While writing the script I always try to imagine the young audiences’ reaction. It’s like finding a present for somebody, a good film should have all features of a perfect present: it should satisfy our emotional needs and yet be a total surprise.”
After the screening you took great importance in the Q & A session.
Maleszka: “That’s exactly what children’s film is about: getting into a dialogue with the audience. That’s why such films need a different sort of ending. Films for adults should have a real ending so they can close the case, leave the theatre and forget about the whole thing 10 minutes later. For children a film’s ending should be a point from which they can start creating their own story in their imagination.”
Apparently the Disney Company picked up an interest in your film. That rarely happens to a European film.
Maleszka: “The Disney Company is planning to buy both the film and the series to be broadcasted on Disney Channel. The major challenge for European films, standing in the shadow of the US productions is: making our films as attractive as US movies, while trying to be just a bit more creative, more clever. The biggest problem for European children’s films is the lack of an international platform for broadcasting and distribution. The only chance for our films is to have them widely distributed in Europe and receive European financial support for dubbing and promotion.” (GH – © Andrzej Maleszka)