| 9 min 03 s
Traditional animation and paper cut-outs
Awards and Festivals
A National Film Board of Canada and Folimage co-production
A short film adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, HARVEY depicts a young boy who candidly recalls the spring day when his world turned upside down. Filled with original little touches and told through the eyes of a child with an overflowing imagination, this luminous work by Janice Nadeau, featuring elegant music by Martin Léon, poetically examines bereavement and coping with the loss of a parent.
Timeless, impressionistic and luminous, HARVEY, a short film adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, is a poetic tale about bereavement and coping with the loss of a parent, told through the eyes of a child with an overflowing imagination. The charming narration and delicate animation by director Janice Nadeau convey the misconceptions and anxieties of childhood with the lucidity that young minds show in the face of life’s defining moments. Crafted with a jeweller’s precision and immense sensitivity, and featuring elegant music by Martin Léon, this film is so personal that it strikes a universal chord.
With a child’s candour, Harvey recalls the spring day when his world turned upside down. In a story filled with original little touches, he depicts a procession of ordinary moments leading to something very much out of the ordinary. After an exciting afternoon playing outside with his friends, watching toothpicks race along swift-flowing waters in the gutter, Harvey heads home, rosy-cheeked and with sodden feet. When he gets there, he’s shocked to find a crowd gathered, and an ambulance. All he can see of his father is the objects he has left behind. To fill the void created by his departed dad, Harvey will need to rely on his imagination.
INTERVIEW WITH JANICE NADEAU
Told through the eyes of a child with an overflowing imagination, HARVEY is a poetic, luminous look at bereavement and coping with the loss of a parent.
What was the idea, the inspiration, for this film?
The starting point was the graphic novel, of course. What prompted me to continue and expand this story into a film is that it was like a house with hundreds of doors. And the feeling that, whichever one I opened, I would find a way to approach it differently. The story it tells is so rich, as are the themes: family, the invisible bonds between individuals.
Tell us about your creative process, your particular aesthetic approach.
The film takes place in childhood, where the boundary between reality and imagination is easily crossed. The other element is that it happens in the spring. That’s where the aesthetic treatment came from. There are two kinds of spring in the story. The first is when there’s still messy snow around: it melts and becomes mud, slush. . . That transitional period inspired me: it’s not bright like in summertime; it’s an in-between, an intermediate time. To convey that, I worked in pencil for the animation, and there was a ‘dirtying’ step, using charcoal so the line would be imperfect, delicate.
What’s it like switching from illustration to animation?
As an illustrator I’m focussed on telling a story in a single image. I don’t have to manage time in that image, and I can add all the details I want. When I’m animating, though, I don’t have access to the final imagery of the film. So I work in layers. The backgrounds, the objects, colours and characters aren’t created at the same time, these elements get superimposed like onion peels. I can also use images more to unfold the story, using sequences, editing, storyboarding.
How did you decide to go with a single narrative voice (that of Harvey)?
In the narration of the graphic novel, there’s a convention when Harvey brings in a character. It’s written: ‘he said,’ ‘my brother said,’ etc. I tried to transpose that convention to the script, but it became cumbersome. So I switched to voices that would be performed by actors, but that didn’t work either. After a lot of research, I went back to the idea of a narrated story. When Harvey tells the story, he does all the voices, even though that’s jarring at times.
How was it working with Martin Léon, who composed the music?
Olivier Calvert, the sound designer on the film, recommended Martin to me, because we were looking for someone who could compose poetic passages but who could also take us into different worlds, because the film has a variety of rhythms. Martin is a tinkerer, an experimenter. For example, for the scene in the funeral home, he asked his musicians to improvise, and make unusual sounds. Martin was really generous, and natural. He was given carte blanche and really embraced the film, bringing in a lot of suggestions.
What are the defining professional relationships that you’ve developed over the course of your career?
I’ll start with Christiane Duchesne, the first pivotal person for me, who introduced me to authors and to the work of illustration. At university and in my professional life, Michèle Lemieux, who’s also now a filmmaker, but who was an illustrator back then, played a role in my life as a mentor, artistically and for teaching. Claude Cloutier, an NFB animator whom I met in 2010, is someone I have a lot of fun with. Claude is extremely generous, able to set aside his personal drawing style and help other directors, respecting their style while contributing his vision as a filmmaker and a great illustrator.
How did the NFB and Folimage enable you to take this project further?
The NFB provides the ideal conditions to create. That’s really the foundation. My producer, Marc Bertrand, has a gift for finding and assembling a brilliant team of collaborators. The team at the French Animation Studio is so efficient and so generous! They put everything in place for the filmmaker to nurture their project. Once the setup, the preparation, was complete, Folimage took over for the animation side. This production studio, which has gone digital, went back to something more traditional with HARVEY. They assembled a great little team to create part of the film using paper cutout animation, one of their specialties. Here too, I was provided with solutions, which was a very constructive approach that made for a better film.
Contact NFB Publicist for broadcast–quality excerpts.
Contact NFB Publicist for high-resolution images for print.
A film by
Adapted from the graphic novel by Hervé Bouchard
Illustrated by Janice Nadeau
Éditions de La Pastèque
With the voice of
Ryan S. Hill
Oana Suteu Khintirian
Consultant to the Director
Sylvie Léonard Victorino
Morten Riisberg Hansen
Paper Cut-out Animation
Director of Photography
Recording of Test Voices
Pierre Yves Drapeau
Additional keyboards, programming
National Film Board of Canada Team
Technical Specialist, Animation
Senior Production Coordinators
Administration and Finance Manager
Isabelle Brocal Lahittette
Special thanks to
Frédéric Gauthier & les Éditions de La Pastèque
Félix Villeneuve & Yves Ramon
National Film Board of Canada
Reginald de Guillebon
Head of Development
National Film Board of Canada | Animation Studio Folimage
With the support of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée
© 2023 A National Film Board of Canada and Folimage co-production
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a leader in exploring animation as an artform, a storytelling medium and innovative content for emerging platforms. It produces trailblazing animated works both in its Montreal studios and across the country, and it works with many of the world’s leading creators on international co-productions. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including seven Oscars for NFB animation and seven grand prizes at the Annecy festival. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.
Founded in 1981 by Jacques-Rémy Girerd, since 2016 Folimage has been part of the Hildegarde Group, founded and headed by Reginald de Guillebon. Headquartered in Valence, France, the studio upholds an exacting editorial line, seeking the perspectives of creators who craft unconventional visual realms using wholly original animation techniques. Its artist-in-residence program, which has produced shorts by international animators for the past 25 years, perfectly exemplifies that philosophy. Over the decades, this animation universe has combined production and filmmaking with services and distribution, adapting to the ever-shifting market.