Nicholas De Fina's Animated Comedy: "LeSeurdmin"
Animator and filmmaker Nicholas De Fina is a lifelong fan of animation. As a child, he loved the The Simpsons. He became interested in making his own animation while studying in college. Although as a student he studied English, Italian, and Filmmaking, five to six years ago he realized he had ideas for animated stories that he wanted to tell.
He ultimately saved up to order the best program from Toon Boom Animation Studios, which is the leading supplier of animation and storyboard software for animators. This allowed him to take a crash course in animation, spending forty hours a week learning from online tutorials. De Fina credits the program with giving him a wealth of knowledge. Ever since learning from it, he has never looked back.
As far as his own personal style, De Fina is inspired by the cartooniest of cartoons. "I like crudely drawn characters that are funny, because I like it looking more minimalistic, without looking awful," he explains. "I love how in cartoons, you can defy reality, or hold true to logic, depending on what you want to do--which can include making strange, exaggerated proportions with your characters."
In fact, "LeSeurdmin" is a fun cross between "South Park" and "Archer," where the characters have a simplistic and graphic element to them, moving much the same way they would in puppet animation.
De Fina's latest film, "LeSeurdmin," is an animated comedy. It was created with rigged animation, as well as puppet animation. The film uses only four perspectives, with all of the characters being moved using pushpins, where their articulated joints are the shoulder, elbow, and wrists.
De Fina worked on the film for close to five years. He states that about ninety-seven percent of the film he did himself. While a few of the character designs are from someone else drawing those characters, this project is truly De Fina's own labor of love. "It was brutal, but enjoyable to work on," De Fina smiles.
The premise of "LeSeurdmin" focuses on the title character. Peter LeSeurdmin works a job he doesn't care for, and is more concerned with the screenplay he is writing on the side. Of course, he hopes this screenplay will get him discovered, so he can escape from the drudgery of his day job.
However, everything takes a disastrous turn when Peter goes to meet his girlfriend for dinner. He proceeds to make a fool of himself, whereupon she breaks up with him. His ex ultimately takes off with everything he owns but a lizard costume he happens to have.
In his desperation, after she leaves, Peter goes on a full-day bender. He dons the suit, goes to a bar, and drinks some more. Events transpire that lead Peter to believe he truly is a half man, half lizard (much like the pun of his surname suggests).
Peter ends up having a conversation with an actual lizard, realizes that he yearns for an easier, non-human life, and swallows a fly whole. This absurdist comedy deals with the question: Peter isn't really turning into a lizard... is he?
The answer to that query is left up to interpretation, with the suggestion largely being that Peter is an unreliable narrator who thinks he has superhero-like powers. However, the people he encounters on his adventures do not necessarily agree.
"This film is an homage to comic books," De Fina laughs. "It is a satire, without it being a very overtly superhero-y film." Part of how De Fina decided to have Peter end up wearing a lizard costume specifically, was because the lizard is an animal who can adapt. Plus, LeSeurdmin is a name that can function both as a normal surname, and as a joke suggesting he is the "Lizard Man."
De Fina is very pleased with the actors who voiced Peter and the film's other characters, all hailing from Chicago's Ph Productions Theatre Company. The entire team is very proud of the project, particularly as it has been very well received, even receiving the Best Feature, Actor, and Director awards at the Houston Comedy Film Festival.
In August or September 2017, there will be more news of the next festivals "LeSeurdmin" will be screened at.
In the future, De Fina has a few projects that are in the works. A follow-up movie may focus on a character called "Roof Cop," which will hopefully be part of a trilogy with movies focusing on different people in and around Peter LeSeurdman's orbit.
De Fina is continuing to work with Ph Productions, including on a documentary, and a mockumentary about video games. For now, he is very excited about his breakout cartoon film. "I'm working to promote 'LeSeurdmin,' and let people know about this funny, action-packed comedy," De Fina beams. "I'm really excited to be getting it out there."
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