Belka & Strelka
Animated short film
Belka & Strelka, the story of two astronaut dogs, coexisting in a cramped space ship over the course of a confusing mission, was my final year project in animation school. A 3 minute movie may not sound like much, but it’s the biggest project I’ve done so far.
When applying for Animation school I was asked to describe a short film that I would like to make. I ruffled through my ever growing tree of shelved ideas and projects and picked out a comic script that I abandoned 15 years ago, at the time unable to nail down what the core of the story really was. The retro space setting would naturally look great in stop motion. So, what if the spaceship reminded a bit of a cramped apartment where the relationship of two characters could be explored? What if one of them is part robot and a bit strange? Belka & Strelka are named after two Soviet space dogs that were launched into space together in 1960, and, unlike their predecessor Laika, survived the ordeal.
Concept and visualisation
I’ve been complimented on the visual style of this movie so I’ll share my thoughts on it. I was going for a dark, brut, almost tomb-like interior for the space ship that would contrast the soft and colourful dogs and make them seem out of place. Space, depicted through overlapping watercolour layers would represent unattainable freedom, like a pretty screensaver on a crappy old computer.
Contrast was also in mind when choosing the materials for the dogs. Since Strelka is a cyborg I wanted her to have a synthetic look. Hair and tail were thus harvested from a little Pony and a Pixie tail while her nose and claws were painted with metallic nail polish. Her body was felted with a fuzzy yarn that has a bit of shine to it. Belka, on her part, is almost completely made out of natural wool.
The spaceship had to be spacious enough for me to reach in to move the puppets, yet feel sorta cramped. I solved this by building it a bit cone shaped, bending the perspective into a wide angle view. The same build was used for the two interiors shown in the movie. I rebuilt it after filming the first set. In general, for this project, I tried my very best to salvage used and discarded materials instead of buying new.
Due to time limitations I only shot a part of the film. I think this version works fairly well as its own thing, much thanks to Aviators’ music breathing drama and pulse into it. But there’s definitely more to this story and the plan is to continue working on it!
© Stina Lövkvist 2022