Making a 'Junkyard' Beautiful: How Hisko Hulsing Animated His Short Film

One of the most underappreciated cinematic art forms is the short film, the sting, perhaps, felt more so in dramas (it takes less time to unpack a joke than a heart). However, Dutch filmmaker Hisko Hulsing's dramatic animated short, Junkyard, which has won 22 festival awards, tells a more amazingly vivid and sincere story in 18 minutes than many live action features do in 90. Directors Notes catches up with Hulsing as he details his 6-year filmmaking process: how he  financed the film, composed the soundtrack, and brought the incredible oil-painted backgrounds and 2D and 3D animations to life.

Hulsing's story about how he became a filmmaker is relatable to the larger part of us. He studied painting at the Art Academy of Rotterdam, before stumbling into a film project with his brother. Like many of us, once he got his first taste of cinematic creation, he was hooked. His obsession seems evident when you look at the many roles he played in creation Junkyard: writer, director, animator, and composer. He tells Directors Notes:

I started studying all aspects of live-action filmmaking, in order to become a good director. I became a real filmbuff, I watched thousands of films, read many books about filmmaking and although I have never directed a live-action film, I use all the knowledge I have to make films that are cinematic and well edited and tell a straightforward story in visual attractive ways.

Financed by Hulsing's commercial work earnings, Junkyard took 6 years to complete. 2D and 3D animation techniques were layered over oil-painted backgrounds, mixing a realistic palpability with the dreamlike recollections of youth -- a theme Junkyard exacts so well. Hulsing shares some insight into what it was like working in the sometimes monotonous medium of animation:

We had to make 25000 drawings, color them and then frame by frame paint the shadows over it. It took us 6 and a half years. It was really a hell of a job that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Parts of it are fun, like painting the backgrounds, other parts are really boring and difficult at the same time.

In fact, in an interview with Cartoon Brew, Hulsing said his least favorite part of making the film was shadow painting, a process he demonstrates on his website. Check out the four videos below to see just how important this process is to the overall look of a film.

The restraints on length push filmmakers to be efficient storytellers, and most of the time when a dramatic short doesn't work, it's because the audience hasn't emotionally connected to the degree the narrative calls for. Eighteen pages mean "get to the point", something that Hulsing so aptly does in Junkyard -- a simple, dark, and beautiful story told with fewer images.

What did you think of Junkyard? Have you ever worked on an animated film with a similar process? Share your experiences/thoughts in the comments below.


[via Short of the Week]

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One of the best short films I have seen. Definitely too gloomy for some.

February 10, 2014 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Paul Oh

Wow, this was fantastic. I've heard several producers and lecturers say that stories told through animation should be stories that couldn't be expressed without animation, I’ve never agreed with this assertion. Some people paint, some are photographers, some are composers etc. and they should be able to tell the stories they want to tell through whatever medium allows them to best articulate their ideas.

February 10, 2014 at 5:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Stunning and beautiful work, with a fantastic story. Reminds me of Ralph Bakshi's early work incorporating live-action with cel animation and painted backgrounds (American Pop, Cool World).

February 12, 2014 at 3:35AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


wow this is one of my best movie ever. it is very good loved it very much please share it with all of your friends and family.

November 12, 2017 at 12:39PM, Edited November 12, 12:39PM

director of photography