We live in a world where, for many, time is at a premium. There are only 24-hours in a day, that has never changed, but with work, socialising, exercise, leisure, family and much more to fit into our busy schedules, we can often feel pushed to our limits. Our society is also dominated by the pressure to excel, in whatever you are doing, an idea that’s explored in Kilian Vilim’s (Ooze) award-winning animated short Mr. Pete & the Iron Horse as it follows a subservient soldier eager to make his demanding leader happy.
“The origin of Mr. Pete & the Iron Horse lies in the topic of acceleration in our society”
Discussing the short with its creator Vilim, the director explained how the story originated after he was considering the role of “acceleration in our society” and the impact it had on our personal and working lives. “According to the motto ‘Harder, Better, Faster’, maximum economic performance is to be achieved particularly efficiently according to the minimum principle”, he reveals. Adding that this has had a “conspicuously large effect on the workers”, who he believes are “exposed to ever greater burdens for the increase of the profit”.
It’s a noble message to carry in a film and a notion that’s difficult to disagree with. However, Vilim conveys it with a lightness that’s admirable, giving his film not only an engaging level of accessibility, but driving his point home with real style and originality. In fact, it’s the visual approach to the storytelling that amplifies the entertainment here, as the filmmaker tackles contemporary themes with a classic approach to aesthetic.
“We were mainly inspired by the cartoons from the 1930s, such as Steamboat Willy and Koko the Clown“, Vilim states as we discuss the production of Mr. Pete & the Iron Horse. These classic animations had a direct influence on the style of the film, especially through the use of the ‘double bounce’ technique (which gives a characters actions extra vim), but also on the short’s score and sound design. “We tried to tell the story of the train’s acceleration through ‘big band jazz’ and sound design, to create a balance between the image and the auditory layer”, the director explains.
Part of the YK Animation Studios catalogue, which also contains fellow S/W picks Little Miss Fate, Coyote and In a Nut Shell, Mr. Pete & the Iron Horse had an impressive festival run, playing the likes of Locarno and Bucheon and winning awards at Fantoche and Neuchâtel. Vilim’s short also inspired a tricky platform video game adaption, which you can play online. For more of the animators work, you can check out his Vimeo profile, with his stylish music video for Swiss duo Too Mad a favourite highlight of mine.