International Artist Spotlight In Conversation with Athens based Ersi Spathopoulou & Dimitris Karatzaferis

By ANAND GURNANI | 15 March, 2011 - 16:02

Your website is truly a work of inspired, interactive animation! Was it always conceived as this layered, multi leveled site that it is or was the process of building it more iterative and dynamic?
ERSI: We are very glad you enjoyed our site! It is true that already from the start we conceived of it as a multi-level project. Of course, in the process of designing it, new ideas came up and in fact we could still be adding new versions of the rooms to our web-home. But we had to launch it at last!

DIMITRIS: You may have noticed that some of the doors in the house are locked… for the time being.

How many months did it take to make all of it? How many people worked on it?
ERSI: The two of us completed the site‘s artwork and design in about six months‘ time. Then wowgroup undertook the programming and technical support.

DIMITRIS: I enjoyed those six months a lot! They were months of creativity, less bounded by limitations than our usual deals with customers. We should also mention the contribution of our informally third member Charis who helped a lot with ideas and his musical choices.

All the characters that one encounters in the kitchen and the outdoors levels of your they all belong to some show you are developing or were they specifically developed for the site?
ERSI: The site and the creatures that inhabit it are only part of a world that we are in the process of articulating and designing. Our site focuses on just an important detail of this wider spacErsi: a house and its backyard. We want to see the characters that you mentioned exiting the house towards this "altered" city of Athens that surrounds it. They might even make some new friends there!

Tell us more about the various characters and how they came to be? We‘d love it if you could share some of the visuals that define the development process from concept to final?
ERSI: The characters emerged from the overall atmosphere that we had created. It is the surrounding space that actually gave birth to them and then they came to inhabit our house. My favorites are the bar‘s Shy King and Cambourini - although I have to admit that the Cat seems to have some special importance there.

DIMITRIS: It‘s like we designed a chair of a special shape and then someone just suitably shaped came and sat on it!

There‘s also quite a ‘Body of Work‘ in display on that site - How many years have you been working in the industry? Have you‘ll always worked as a tag team?
ERSI: We met each other during some animation workshop in 1993. Then we worked together for the same animation studio and in 1997 we first appeared as partners, without knowing exactly towards where we were heading yet. ANIMaD officially exists since 1998.

Does Animad have more of a tilt towards animation or are you‘ll into all things artistic?
ERSI: Image is my way! I dream through images, my memories are images and I think through images - no matter still or moving.

DIMITRIS: My tilt goes back and forth: whenever doing animation I miss illustration, and when doing illustration I miss animation. In any case, we wish to experiment with various means of expression in the future.

How is the Greek Animation & Interactive Design scene these days? Could you share some insight on it?
ERSI: Greece is a small country. The market is limited and there is no industry, nor is there some solid educational support of animation. Yet in Greece there are people who love animation and whose personal projects are sometimes exceptional. In fact I believe Greek animation would make a profitable investment.

DIMITRIS: In Greece talented animators with good intentions are not missing. Unfortunately, the poor prospects of personal professional development force those people to work their future in other professional fields or just leave the country. Probably the time has come for extrovert and co-operative policies on our part.

Do you also write and develop story ideas or are you more involved in the visual development side of things?
ERSI: Until now most of our images have served concepts coming from elsewhere - clients or other collaborators. In the future we wish to save more time for developing our own ideas.

DIMITRIS: As we are a team of just 2 (and a half!) members though, we always keep our eyes open for challenging ideas and projects, which we could embrace and invest with our best efforts.

Ersi & Dimitris, when did you get into this field? What have been the milestones so far?
ERSI: It is tough to isolate some milestone. I‘ve been painting since I was a kid, this is what I still do and plan to keep doing! ANIMaD‘s history is a continuum that includes instances of failure and success, joy and disappointment, a lot of work, dedication and passion for what we‘re doing.

DIMITRIS: I am infected since childhood too. As a kid I was very fond of cartoons and animation and the first time I used the light-box of a professional studio still feels like a milestone to me!

So where did u learn to animate?
DIMITRIS: We both learned a lot while working for Artoon Studio - the biggest animation studio of Greece in the 90‘s, where many young people who loved animation were trained. In fact, we learned animation by doing animation :)

Could you elaborate on some eminent Greek animation personalities or directors?
ERSI: I must mention Angelos Rouvas. We met him while working on "Pandora & Plato", our first job in the field of animation. Angelos is an animator-director and he was Dimitris mentor! He‘s been one of the inspiring figures in the field and taught us a lot. He was also director for the biggest short 3d Greek production, titled "The little mouse who wanted to touch a star". I would also like to mention animator-director Alecos Papadatos, a dear friend and colleague. Alecos was also an inspiring figure to us and recently designed the graphic novel "logicomix".

What is the most popular local animation character and series in Greece?
DIMITRIS: I suppose maybe "Pandora and Plato - The last strawberry birds on earth" was the most popular Greek animation series. But even so, foreign animation series and characters are better known to the public.

What are the immediate short term as well as long term plans for Animad?
ERSI: A short movie is included in our short term plans. We also plan to enrich and develop the world that surrounds our web-home, along with its characters. In the long term, we wish to keep evolving our means of expression, through creative collaborations with people from around the world.

ERSI and DIMITRIS: We would love to do the conceptual artwork for a video-game!