If there’s one word to describe this short film, it’s this: precious.
For their year-end project, a team of graduating students from ISART Digital in Paris, France, have produced an animated film that reimagines The Lord of the Rings trilogy with mice.
The four-minute short – entitled Mice, a small story – follows a group of mice who, in a dark subway tunnel, stumble upon a gold ring-pull with mysterious powers. Not far from them, an evil owl and his rat minions plot to take the coveted item away from protagonists at all costs.
Incredibly cute and riveting from start to finish, the animation perfectly summarises nine hours of Tolkien’s epic trilogy with references to scenes like Forth Eorlingas, and characters like Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf.
“We really wanted the audience to get that our mice are going on an incredible quest,” the animators told Lost At E Minor, “but it was also important that the references from the trilogy make everybody smile.”
If you’d like to learn more about Mice, a small story, continue below to read our interview with the fellowship of students who made it.
Where did you get the idea to make The Lord of the Rings, but with mice?
“Everything started with the question: Why were there little mice in the subway? And after asking ourselves more questions on their daily life, we noticed a lot of connections with The Lord of the Rings.
“For instance, mice are often associated with garbage, so what if they find something precious this time? There are mice, but also rats, or even birds. We have different races of animals, so maybe clans? And maybe they are the ones behind the (infamous) delayed trains of Paris?
“And we started to imagine our little mice in this epic battle… but in the subway. So that’s where the project began.”
Did you consider remaking other films with mice as the main characters?
“Not really, when the idea came to do a remake of The Lord of the Rings, it was obvious that we had to do it! We never thought at the time to use another film.”
Could you briefly take us through the creative process involved in making Mice, a small story?
“We spent half a year working on the pre-production: writing the story, deciding which scenes of The Lord of the Rings we were going to recreate, which characters we wanted to choose! We did a lot of drawings during this step of production and we had the entire short movie in rough 2D.
“A fun fact is that at the very beginning of the project, we wanted to have the whole Fellowship of the Ring! We had worked on Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas mice! We even had a Gollum, who was a fur-less mouse. But because of production constraints, we had to be very careful in our choices, and a lot of our initial ideas had to be reviewed.
“After that, we spent one year working on the production. We chose to separate the team in two groups: one group responsible for the image (the final render of the film, the colours, the lights…) and another one responsible for the animation (the movement of the characters and cameras).
“We had one lead artist in each group who gave retakes and made sure we respected the final delivery, and one producer to help keep track of the overall planning. We tried our best to organize the team as if we were a real studio.”
Also, how long did it take to complete everything? What were the challenges you encountered?
“To complete everything it took us a year and a half, but we had alternating weeks of study and internship (our school policy) so the actual time available was half of that.
“The challenges involved realistic rendering and animation, the fur of the mice (which can be tricky), and the fact that we had a lot of characters in our shots (and crowds for the final battle!).
“In a CG production, it is always important to optimize your work. As students, we didn’t have the same budget and equipment to produce our short movie as a big studio, so we needed to fully optimize our work to respect the deadlines with limited resources.
“Regarding the story, the challenge was to be epic while being funny. We really wanted the audience to get that our mice are going on an incredible quest, but it was also important that the references from the trilogy make everybody smile.
“Also, it was difficult to stay focused on the project, because we were not constantly at school. We had to communicate remotely a lot during our internship weeks and stay active.”
What would you say would be the biggest lesson you learned from making this graduation project?
“The biggest lesson is that working together and helping each other really is the key! And we don’t mean only in the group, but with all the classmates of our year and our colleagues from our internships.
“Of course we learned a lot from our teachers, but most of the progress that we made was when we worked together on the same problem and communicated about new tips or new methods that we discovered.
“It’s really important to pay attention to the work of others to be motivated and inspired.”
Any chance we’ll get an extended version?
“If Peter Jackson is on board, we are!”