A Film a Week - Cricket & Antoinette / Cvrčak i mravica

 previously published on Cineuropa

We all know the tale of the cricket and the ants, and the moral of the story: a fun-loving, lazy cricket gets punished for his lack of organisation, preparation and hard work once the winter comes. That kind of moral, which champions only one type of behaviour and the character traits it entails, while disparaging the other possibilities, could easily serve to create divisions and an atmosphere of intolerance within society. It is evident that the fable told by both Aesop and de La Fontaine needed a sort of overhaul to fit the needs of the more complex contemporary world. That task was undertaken by a group of Croatian creatives at the Diedra animation studio, and the result is the first Croatian feature-length 3D animated film, Cricket & Antoinette, which has gone straight into theatrical distribution domestically, while the global release will follow later this year.

The foundations for the new reading of the old tale were laid by Darko Bakliža in his 1999 stage play for children, and this was adapted into a script by Luka Rukavina, who also directed the film, and Rona Žulj. It tells the story of a cricket musician and band frontman, Ket, and the ant princess Antoinette. While he is a typical fun-loving and creative cricket, she is more easy-going and less well organised than the rest of her ant colony, which adheres to strict rules. After a chance encounter between the two at the Roachella music festival, a strange affection ensues. Ket follows her home, only to get in trouble with the law at the ant colony, and Antoinette saves him out of gratitude. She then feels the urge to warn the crickets and the other bugs at the festival of the upcoming winter, which they all see as a myth and so pay little attention to her words. Maybe it would be easier if she could sing it to them. But can an ant sing? Can crickets accept the concept of preparation? Could these two different worlds come together, especially when certain forces want to keep them apart?

The story has a universal appeal and is suitable for family audiences, mainly children and their parents. Although it is his first work in the field of feature-length animation, Rukavina has previously gained a lot of experience with both animation (as a dubbing director for the Croatian releases of major animated flicks) and its target audience (as a director of numerous short documentaries for children and youth TV programmes), so he keeps the key ingredients well balanced. The dialogue is quick and snappy, an element of relaxation comes in the form of the songs composed by Gordan Muratović (better known as accomplished pop musician Coco Mosquito), which are quite catchy and are slickly blended into the sound design by Vjeran Šalomon (who also wrote the score), and the visual design features made up of richly textured objects (with some use of macro photographs for the backgrounds) and models in enhanced, but still natural-looking, colours really fit the bill. Technically speaking, Cricket & Antoinette might not be a shining example of the most modern 3D animation (since the project spent quite a long stretch of time at various developmental and production stages), but it is still groundbreaking in the national context, and its retro and slightly naive style serves as a perfect vessel to deliver this new moral of the old story to the widest possible audience.

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