For veteran animator Sergio Pablos, the “long lasting question that I’ve had for myself” was “do you have what it takes to be a director?” He finally answered himself with his acclaimed debut “Klaus,” which has emerged as a major Oscar contender in the Best Animated Feature category. Pablos spoke about fulfilling this lifelong goal in a new behind-the-scenes featurette. Watch the exclusive video above or below.
The Netflix release centers on Jesper (voiced by Jason Schwartzman), a bratty teen studying to become a postman at an academy run by his dad. When he’s stationed at a remote Arctic postal service, he befriends a jolly toymaker named Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons). The two team up to deliver toys to children during the holidays, and Jesper finally learns the importance of giving.
In looking for an idea for his first feature, Pablos realized that “there’s an origin story for every established character. I thought, what a great storytelling exercise that could be.” So he “tried to find a character who’s established, but doesn’t have an origin story.”
Yet he didn’t want to just give viewers an insight into the beginnings of Santa Claus. Instead, he thought, “what if Santa is a symbol for altruism, and we have a character who’s not Santa who needs to learn a lesson? So Santa Claus is the catalyst to that story.”
Before turning to directing, Pablos cut his teeth working as an animator on several cartoon classics, including “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), “Hercules” (1997), “Tarzan” (1999), “Treasure Planet” (2002) and “Rio” (2011). He wanted the look of “Klaus” to feel like “a traditional animated film,” but “with more texture to it.” He explains of the aesthetic, “in a world where CGI hadn’t been invented, where would traditional animated films be today?” That’s the look he was striving for.
So far, “Klaus” has earned Pablos a BAFTA nomination in Best Animated Feature. The film also competes for seven Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature and Best Director and Best Storyboarding for its helmer.
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