Tekst (smal)

Berlin Generation Kplus: Mascha Halberstad discusses Fox and Hare Save the Forest

Interview by Nick Cunningham

The Dutch animation director talks to SEE NL about her new 3D feature animation selected for Berlinale 2024.

Still: Fox and Hare Save the Forest - Mascha Halberstad

Back in February 2022, Dutch Mascha Halberstad directed the hilarious stop motion feature Oink*, which was selected for Berlin Generation Kplus. This year she returns to Berlinale (and to Generation) with another full-length feature, Fox and Hare Save the Forest**, a 3D animation based on the much-loved characters created by Sylvia Vanden Heede and illustrator Thé Tjong Khing. The feature film follows on from the successful 26 x 11’ Fox and Hare series directed by Halberstad and co-director Tom van Gestel and produced by Submarine (NL), Waking The Dog (Belgium) and Doghouse Films (Lux).
In the new film we once again meet the regular cast of Fox, Hare, Owl, Tusk, Ping Wing, Mermaid and others, but new on the scene are the egotistical Beaver, who decides to dam the river and therefore create a lake that threatens to flood the forest, and two wisecracking sidekicks who also happen to be rats. Beaver has vain tendencies and ignores the entreaties of the forest dwellers when they row out to his hi-tech headquarters on the lake, so they are forced to take the most drastic of measures to protect their homes…
Halberstad underlines how 3D animation demands a wholly different approach to stop motion. “In stop motion you have more influence during the process. With 3D, you can't change anything. Well you can, but it'll get very expensive later on. So you have to direct your story really well upfront, otherwise you get into problems later.”
That said, the process was a “fluent” one in which the actors’ creative, sometimes anarchic, improvisation at early recording phase brilliantly set up the whole process.

“That's why I like to work with the actors in the first phase of the film before you start animating. That is what makes your movie nice, because when the voices are good the animators love to animate the characters, and then so everything becomes something positive and great.”

The film was initially envisaged as a pre-school offering, but will be marketed by the producers to a family audience. Adult viewers will immediately appreciate the film’s nod to Peaky Blinders in the form of the shifty rats with their British Midlands accents. There are also underlying themes in evidence, such as the environment, the power of friendship and LGBTQ awareness. These are not delivered in an overt way. Director Halberstad was keen to avoid any sense of “cringe.” 
She was furthermore delighted by the development of the songs within the scenario, such as when Beaver is showing Fox and Hare around his subterranean über-lodge (which any Bond villain would be proud of). The song that he sings emphasises both his narcissism and self-delusion and adds emotional depth, enabling a heightened sense of engagement within the audience. “A movie can look beautiful, but if you're not involved in the story, you can forget it,” says Halberstad.
This was an opinion shared by Sebastian Market, Head of the Berlinale selection committee who wrote to saying, “The ability to share a room with people to laugh and laugh is a privilege in these times, and laugh we did, led by your film, its charming characters and mild (but much appreciated) wackiness!”
Next up for the animator is Sjap and King*, scripted by Mieke de Jong (Lepel and Winter In Wartime), about the relationship between a father and his son, who have fled a troubled country. Core to the story is the fantasy that the father weaves over the identity of the boy’s mother.
Halberstad tells how she regularly receives correspondences from young film watchers. “I made this movie Munya in Me (2013). It’s about bullying and sometimes I get emails from children who saw the film who said it helped them, or they even make a drawing and send it to me,” she says. 
“A few weeks ago I received an email from two children who were making a stop motion and asked me questions about how they could do it well, because they were such big fans of Oink,” the director adds. “I always say you have to be bold and to dare. That's basically my advice. Don't hold back and don't be afraid to think about what other people think. Just go for it. I also gave them a little bit of technical advice, but just the fact that they emailed me was so intensely cute.”


Fox and Hare Save the Forest is written by Fabie Hulsebos and directed by Mascha Halberstad. The animated feature is produced by Submarine (NL) in co-production with Walking the Dog (BE) and Doghouse Films (LU). Sales are handled by Urban Distribution International. It will be released in Dutch theaters on the 24th of April.

The 74th Berlin International Film Festival takes place on February 15 - February 25. Find the complete Dutch line-up and schedules here. Or discover Berlinale on https://www.berlinale.de/en/home.


*Film is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund
**Film is supported by the Production Incentive