In a lush and lively forest lives a hedgehog. He is at once admired, respected and envied by the other animals. However, Hedgehog’s unwavering devotion to his home annoys and mystifies a quartet of insatiable beasts: a cunning fox, an angry wolf, a gluttonous bear and a muddy boar. Together, the haughty brutes march off towards Hedgehog’s home to see just what is so precious about this “castle, shiny and huge.” What they find amazes them and sparks a tense and prickly standoff.
This sumptuous and delicately choreographed stop-motion fable—made entirely of needled felt—revives the timeless and timely notion of cultivating our own place of safety, dignity and comfort, no matter how big or small. Like a welcome blanket on a chilly day, Hedgehog’s Home is a warm and universal tale for young and old that reminds us there truly is no place like home.
A co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and Bonobostudio, Hedgehog’s Home is exquisitely directed by Eva Cvijanović and based on the classic story by Branko Ćopić, a writer from the former Yugoslavia.
Hedgehog’s Home is a needle-felted stop-motion animation for audiences young and old, based on a famous children’s poem by Branko Ćopić, a writer from the former Yugoslavia. Deeply rooted in post-World War II Yugoslavia, this modern tale is entrenched in folk tradition but transcends specific cultures, eras and generations by focusing on the essence of home. Hedgehog’s home is an act, not a place or a culture. It represents devotion to and cultivation of safety, dignity and comfort, a protective shelter that also reflects and defines who we are.
In a lush and lively forest lives a hedgehog. He is respected and envied by the other animals. However, Hedgehog’s unwavering devotion to his home annoys a quartet of insatiable beasts. Together, they march off towards Hedgehog’s home and spark a tense and prickly standoff.
Exquisitely directed by Eva Cvijanović and based on the classic story by Branko Ćopić, a writer from the former Yugoslavia, Hedgehog’s Home is a warm and universal tale for young and old that reminds us there truly is no place like home.
Hedgehog’s Home is based on a much-loved story for many from the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. How important was this story for you growing up?
Hedgehog’s Home was one of the books that I kept coming back to so much that I knew it by heart before I knew how to read. I remember pretending to read it to my parents, the whole thing beginning to end. Branko Ćopić’s writing definitely shaped my relationships to storytelling and poetry, and did that for many generations of people from the former Yugoslavia, from my grandparents’ generation until today. While I was in Zagreb shooting the film and would tell people what I am working on, almost everyone would instantly tell me their favourite line from the book.
Did you feel any doubt about tackling such a well-known story? What did you think you could bring to this story?
Of course I was petrified of tackling this story, and I would have never dared to do it had I not been so devotedly backed by NFB producer Jelena Popović. This film needed the support, talent and frame that the NFB and Bonobostudio brought to it, and I learned a whole degree’s worth of things during this process. I did also have quite a vivid and clear vision for the world that I wanted to create; I guess it had been fermenting in my head for over 25 years. I made myself believe that it was rich enough to revive the love for the story of those who already knew it and also extend the reach of Copić’s beautiful work to those not familiar with it. Basically, I wanted to recreate the feeling I got when reading this book, and animation can quite powerfully transmit that kind of experience through the materials used and other cinematic devices.
I imagine that having to leave your home in the 1990s for Canada must have added a new level of connection for you with the story.
Yes, definitely! I realized that the first time I read it as an adult. It is only then that I consciously read in it the message about home, which was of course always there, but as a kid you don’t rationalize it. It very intensely connected with me then and made me reflect on what it is exactly that defines home for me, because obviously, being an immigrant, the geographic or national sense of the word did not correspond to my experience.
You use a very interesting felt technique. Can you talk about why you decided on felt and also to do the film as a stop-motion work?
I knew that I needed a clear way to separate myself from the book’s iconic illustrations, which to me perfectly complemented the story in that format. By choosing stop-motion right from the start, by bringing it into the third dimension, I forced myself to step away from the book medium and aesthetics. I did want to recreate the timeless and familiar quality of the original artwork, something reminiscent of folklore but not defined by it. Around that time, I had discovered needle felting, and wool as a material seemed perfect for achieving all these things. It had a certain tangible warmth of a feeling of home, and as an added bonus it was a lightweight, somewhat malleable material which adapted well to stop-motion. 😉
The narration is a very important part of this story. You landed a couple of well-respected actors. How did you decide on them?
Rade Šerbedžija, the Croatian narrator, is one of the most acclaimed actors from the Balkans, having crossed over from classic theatre to Hollywood and European productions, notably Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, but most importantly, he simply has an exceptional epic quality. The same can be said of Kenneth Welsh and France Castel, who provide the English and French voices. Welsh is perhaps best known for playing Windom Earle in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and his performance beautifully navigates the thin line between comfort and tension, a feeling that was key to the film. France Castel, an iconic Quebec actress, carries the story as powerfully and elegantly as her male colleagues. Her voice has a beautiful melodic quality while not being characteristically feminine, and she brought her unique essence to the film.
The brilliant and prescient comedian George Carlin once said that, “A home is an abstract idea, a home is a setting, it’s a state of mind.” This seems very close to the sentiment of Hedgehog’s Home. Having said that, in this age of sort-of extreme nationalism, do you worry that some people might misinterpret the real meaning behind Hedgehog and turn it into a pro-nationalism statement?
I completely identify with Carlin’s statement, it is exactly what I was trying to convey with the film. For me, home is much more something that we create, an action more than a place, and deeply based in cultivating feelings of belonging and security. This being said, yes, absolutely, the original text was written right after the Second World War, at a moment in history when there was a need within a newly formed Yugoslavia to create and assert its own (unified) national identity, so this sentiment can be appropriated by today’s extremist forces for divisive rather than unifying purposes, and I am conscious of it. I am hopeful that the universal feelings that for me define home are what will come through to the audience, and that these will be a more powerful message than the propaganda that can be twisted out of the text. In Ćopić’s own words, this story is for children and the sensitive, and I trust they will connect with the story in the same way I did; as for those who want to discuss other readings, I’m always happy to engage in a constructive dialogue.
It somehow seems fitting that the film ended up being a co-production with Canada, a country that’s been consistently saluted for its cultural openness and multicultural philosophy.
Absolutely. The multicultural side of Montreal is one of the reasons why I feel so at home living in this city. My hope is that the diverse Canadian public can come to see this story as their own as much as I did. Nothing would make me happier.
Written and Directed by
Based on the Short Story by
Sets and Props
Stop Motion Animation
CG animation and animatic
Puppet and Animation Consultant
Director of Photography
Optical Effects and Compositing
Narration & Foley Recording
ROSALINA DI SARIO
Produced with the Support of
CROATIAN AUDIOVISUAL CENTRE
CITY OFFICE FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORT OF THE CITY OF ZAGREB
Original Short Story used by Permission of
FOUNDATION BRANKO ĆOPIĆ
JELENA POPOVIĆ (NFB)
VANJA ANDRIJEVIĆ (BONOBOSTUDIO)
PRODUCED BY THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA & BONOBOSTUDIO ©2017