Some animals are always more equal than others. After the Rebellion in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, pigs and dogs ended up having both their share of equality and then some. Nassos Vakalis, Emmy-winning Greek animation director and animator continues on a similar metaphorical path with his “Dinner For Few”. Anthropomorphic pigs have now occupied places at the dinner table while a human services the machinery that feeds their endless dining. Leftovers are thrown to the cats scrambling under the table.
Although pigs do not necessarily deserve their metaphorical reputation, they have come to occupy a steady place as symbols of sociopolitical criticism ever since “Animal Farm”. Yet the pigs are not the evil perpetrators they seem to be. Shackled together under the table, the diners would be unable to leave the feast even if they desired. Just like the fate of the cats is to feed on the scraps, the fate of the pigs is to eat the food they are fed. When the cats get too bothersome, they are distracted with a wind-up mouse. The pigs can continue their dinner in peace. Status quo prevails.
The opening quote of the film is from Bertolt Brecht’s poem “From a German War Primer” that reads “Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry of wonderful times to come”. But where does the food come from? The machinery keeps churning it out as if it came from a bottomless pit of plenty, yet all the spectators know that perpetuum mobile is still to be invented. The few are dining on borrowed time, but as their clocks like the Hatter’s are stuck on perpetual teatime, they are either unaware of it or unwilling to admit the fact.
Perhaps the system is broken and nobody has realized it yet, so only its innate inertia keeps it going. The only human in the film keeps the machinery running like another Morlock, simply because it is his job. This is what he does. What would he be without the system? What would anyone in that dinner be? Better stick to the familiar – it might not be great, but at least everyone knows their place and knows what they’re getting.
Gladly, Nassos Vakalis didn’t. Despite having his full-time day job as storyboard artist at Dreamworks, he spent nearly two and half years working on “Dinner For Few” in his spare time. Vakalis has described his work routine in his interview to Animatedviews.com as follows: “During the workdays I had my work at the studio [Dreamworks] […] When the kids went to bed around 8.30 pm I would sit down and try to work on the film and sometimes I went to bed as late as 3.30 am, trying to either finish a scene or solve some technical problem. I kept this schedule for about 2 and half years with very little deviation.”
The original style of “Dinner For Few” is more reminiscent of a hand-drawn 2D animation or French noir graphic novels than a conventional 3D animation. Vakalis has described the reasons for choosing the approach as both artistic and technical; he was looking for a more surrealistic way to express his ideas, as well as a way of rendering that could be done with off-the-shelf 3D animation software and with minimal workload. The technicalities of the method have been described in detail in the article in 3DArtist . Lack of dialogue in “Dinner For Few” was similarly both an artistic and financial decision. Dialogue complicates the process of animation as well as making it more costly and as Vakalis put it in his interview to Greekreporter: “In the case you can visually say everything you want with images, then it becomes an extra element that serves very little purpose”.
The 10-minute animation is funded and co-produced by Nassos Vakalis and his wife Katerina Stergiopoulou and made in technical and artistic collaboration with Eva Vomhoff from Germany. The original music that has already won the Best Music Award in Drama Short Film Festival was composed by Kostas Christidis and performed by the Bratislava Symphonic Orchestra. Sound effects were created by Kostas Fylaktidis and Ioannis Giannakopoulos from Tone Studio Athens.
- Animatedviews.com (http://animatedviews.com/2014/animatordirector-nassos-vakalis-invites-us-to-his-dinner-for-few/)
- Greekreporter (http://hollywood.greekreporter.com/2014/07/03/dinner-for-few-greek-crisis-animated-in-hollywood/#sthash.2J4GUgvZ.XxvZb7fc.dpuf