Film

‘Coyote’ Director Lorenz Wunderle Talks Animated Violence, Inside Jokes And Anime Influences

Lorenz Wunderle arrives on Close-up Culture to give us insight into his brilliantly trippy animated short film Coyote.


Q: ‘Coyote’ is a tale of grief and the spiral of delusion and revenge it can send someone down. Was this inspired by your own personal experiences of grief?

A: There are small portions of my own experiences in there. I have experienced some grief in my life, but never that vengeful feeling.

Q: Why a coyote and not a human or another animal?

A: The coyote is a typical spirit animal from North America. It fitted well with the landscapes and going through parallel worlds as a spirit. I thought a close human design would be too kitsch and would not have created enough distance for the audience to keep it on the entertaining side. But that’s just an explanation, generally I felt it would not fit for my taste.

Q: ‘Coyote’ has ‘Happy Tree Friends’ levels of violence. Beyond it being part of the story, why were you interested in continuing the tradition of animated violence that reaches back to ‘The Looney Tunes’ and ‘Tom & Jerry’?

A: Well besides the fact that I grew up with this sort of humour in cartoons, I never felt uncomfortable with it. It was fun to watch because they never really died in those violent actions. The physical consequences of the characters that got hit in The Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry was always creative, overreacted, funny and exciting to watch.

I was used to that until I saw a guy get his head blown off by a gunshot in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell. That was mind boggling for me and I thought: “What? You can do that in a cartoon movie?”. Besides that, I’m not for violence in the real world but I’m still fascinated that it is a big part of the entertainment in movies and even in sport. This reaches way back before medieval times.

Q: ‘Coyote’ is violent but it feels much more artistic and visually stimulating. What inspires/How did you come up with these almost psychedelic images of body horror and striking colours?

A: I got a lot of my inspiration from comics, illustrations and skateboard graphics that use striking colours. I like to combine contrasting colours with warm blues against cold reds. We had a very clear colour theme to every parallel world that the coyote is going through.

I can’t tell you specifically what inspires me, but I build up a kind of visual vocabulary over time with whatever is interesting to me. For one, I still like the mutation scene from the anime Akira. That kind of body horror has definitely influenced me. And I was also fascinated and inspired by religions like voodoo or Santeria that are most connected to their parallel worlds, ghosts and demons. That  is how everything came together for Coyote.

Q: There are so many fun details in the short with references to Tom Hardy, Obama, Milhouse and more. Are these references just a bit of fun or do you sometimes hide deeper meaning in them?

A: These are inside jokes from my teammates. In the toilet scene, my background artist and team went crazy writing stuff on the walls to look like any local bar.

I wanted some Mickey Mouse gloves laying in the backgrounds, some weird figures in the froth of the beer glasses and some cartoon figures that were trapped already in the stomach of the bison. We had a lot of fun doing some childish jokes in the backgrounds of the movie that were mostly not related to the story.

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Q: I really enjoyed the music, especially Rahel Zimmermann’s ‘Coyote Soul’. Can you tell us about putting that together with Rahel?

A: First we wanted to use Patsy Cline’s I Fall To Pieces. I felt it gave a nice little ironic touch. We asked for the rights to the music but it was too expensive. So I listened to other country songs and wrote down lyrics that were a poetic synopsis of the coyote story. For example, you hear in the radio song that he (the coyote) exchanged his soul to a demon for revenge on the wolfs.

I gave Rahel I Fall To Pieces and the lyrics I wrote, so that she could then fit it into her own country melody. I had a blast when I heard Rahel’s music and the lyrics sung by Yumi Ito.

Q: I’m delighted to hear the film is doing very well at festivals. Have you had any interesting or noteworthy responses to the film so far?

A: It did very well at festivals and I’m very happy that so many people saw it. There was one festival in the Swiss city of Bern, called Slam Movie Night, where you could clap for the movie to continue. On my movie it was like fifthy-fifthy. That was an insane atmosphere to experience in the cinema. It showed that Coyote is not for everyone, just for a specific audience that aren’t put off by the violence.

Another noteworthy response was when I got props from Adult Swim. Missy Laney told me I could pitch to them if I got an idea for a series.

Q: I know funding a feature-length animated film can be a struggle, but do you have plans to make one in the near future?

A: Right now I’m helping out and working with my friends at YK Animation Studio on their animated short movies. Besides that I’m not planning a feature-length film.

Q: ‘Coyote’ was such a fun and unique experience. What kind of work can we expect from you in the future?

A: I’m trying to put together some materials to pitch a series. I am sure you will see it if it works, but if not I will continue doing more short movies like Coyote, for sure!

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