A new animation adds a fantastical twist to the second fall of Ayutthaya
With homegrown animation “9 Satra” picking up more than Bt100 million in box office takings earlier this year, hopes are high that “Krut Mahayut Himmaphan” (“Krut: The Himmaphan Warriors”) an epic war story about fantasy creatures in the Himmaphan forest, will do even better.
The animation starts with a battle between the monster Raksod and the kingdom of Krut, which is all but decimated in the war. The nine remaining garuda warriors led by Watchara Krut fly across the vast Natee Sidantara Ocean seeking help from Himmaphan Warriors, among them Kochasee (a half-elephant half-lion creature), Norasingha (a half-lion half-human creature) and Kinnaree (a half-bird half-human creature). They agree and the Himmaphan alliance joins forces to fight against the brutal annihilation by coldhearted creatures who want to conquer the world.
“Krut” is different from other commercial productions in that it comes not from a studio but Rangsit University’s digital art faculty though it has still been made by a group of professional animators led by Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, who is also a lecturer at the faculty.
The project was born when the university’s president and founder Dr Arthit Ourairat asked Chaiporn to come up with an animation centred on the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Chaiporn agreed and with an Bt80-million budget in hand, convinced the founder of Rangsit University to make it as a feature film.
Chaiporn then took the idea to acclaimed director Wisit Sasanatieng asking him to write the script. Wisit agreed in turn but also came up with another idea – adding the Himmaphan forest to the story.
Each character, says the director, is based on historical fact. Watchara Krut is inspired by Phraya Vachiraprakarn – the courageous solider who helped liberate Ayutthaya from Burmese occupation in 1767. He went on to establish the city of Thonburi as the new capital, as Ayutthaya had been almost completely destroyed by the invaders.
“Creating human characters in 3D doesn’t impart a sense of flesh and blood, at least not to me. It’s stiff, the eyes of the characters are lifeless and they have no spirit. So presenting the story in the fantasy Himmaphan world is a better option and it also allows room to add more ideas into the story as well as character details,” says the director.
For Chaiporn, the Krut or garuda character is perfect as the hero, its smart character and winged appearance making it more like a soldier than other Himmaphan characters like the Naga or snake.
The other characters like Kochasee, Norasingha and Kinnaree represent cities on Thailand’s east coasts – Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat – where King Taksin sought allies before returning to fight the Burmese troops and finally proclaim sovereignty from Burma. Another character, Phichai Krut, is reminiscent of King Taksin’s warrior Phraya Phichai, while the city of Krut is the Ayutthya Kingdom.
“Taking this approach made us really enjoy the creative process and allowed more imagination to flow into the story. Many scenes in the animation will probably remind audiences of Siam’s history when we lost Ayutthaya for the second time, but they can also enjoy the movie without thinking about the historical background,” says Chaiporn.
The director of 2002’s “Pang Pon the Animation” – Thailand’s first 3D animation – Chaiporn is co-directing the film with Prapas Chonsaranon, who helped write the script for Workpoint Entertainment’s “Yak: The Giant King”.
The most difficult part in this project, he adds, is directing the movements of the main character Krut. “I don’t want the character moving swiftly like animation characters usually do. For “Krut”, less is more and it makes the character appear more powerful. Sometimes he just stands still and we just add a small amount of motion – like moving his eyes or his shoulder,” he says.
Chaiporn says he was inspired by the face of the actor Nadech Kugimiya, a former student at the RSU’s faculty of communication arts, in designing Watchara Krut.
“His face has elements that fit the garuda’s character particularly his thick eyebrows,” he explains.
Four years ago, the first movie poster he presented to Dr Arthit named Nadech as the star and Chaiporn was hoping he would voice the part.
That idea faded while he was working on the animation and realised it wouldn’t be easy to convince a superstar like Nadech, alumnus or not, to work on the project.
And so Chaiporn decided to use professional dubbing actors led by Rong Kaomoonkadee and Montree Jenaksorn, both of whom have won critical acclaim for their work.
Then came a surprise – Nadech asked Chaiporn if he could do the voiceover. The director was quick to agree and has been delighted with the result.
“It wasn’t easy for him as this was the first time he’s done a voiceover. He spent three to four hours a day working on it and he’s done a great job, so much so that many people even don’t recognise his voice. And of course having Nadech on the credits benefits the marketing strategy as well.”
There is, of course, nothing new about using big stars to voice animations – Hollywood does it all the time to boost marketing. Chaiporn, though, says in general he prefers professional voice actors, “I worry that if we use big names, their dubbing won’t sit well with the characters, and that means they will be less convincing. Nadech is an exception because I created Watchara Krut based on him,” he says.
Growing up with Thai, Japanese and American animations, Chaiporn says that the spirit of Thainess shows through in his work. “It’s in the details like Hanuman’s eyebrows, a take on the traditional Thai painting style known as laay. In this film, laay is added into the Naga’s skin and its scales.
Chaiporn is also quick to stress that even though the film has been funded by an educational institute, it has been made by a professional team with experience in making animations. Some students were of course involved, but their contributions were limited to model making and drawing.
“This animation is uncompromising and not appropriate for young children as some of the scenes are violent. I don’t want to make a lighthearted animation suitable for young children, I want to make an animation for adults to enjoy. With its war content, watching “Krut” is like watching a war epic like “Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj” or “Suriyothai,” he adds.
And part of the budget has also been used to fund a new digital animation centre for the university.
“They are glad to become the first university to make an animation for wide audience. The new facility is great but the project has also created new human resources for the animation business,” he says.