What memories do you carry from your childhood? Is there a certain toy, video game or tv programme that transports you back to simpler times? SuperBlimp Directors Antonio Milo and Fabrizio Fioretti tap into their own memory banks to create reference-laden CGI short PLAYGROUNDS, a five-minute piece that uses nostalgia to explore the darker side of everyday life.

Nostalgia and memory play a huge role in the film, what was the driving motivation behind making PLAYGROUNDS

We created PLAYGROUNDS out of the desire to connect with memories from the ’80s & ’90s. While nostalgia is generally associated with positivity, we wanted to bring something with a dark undercurrent of the real world, and reflect that in this kid’s bedroom and the toys they play with. We wanted this to serve as a homage to anyone out there who has felt isolated and from a dysfunctional home environment.

The film includes several tributes to classic toys/video games of the past, how did you decide which ones you wanted to include and is your “inner child” happy with how you brought them to life in the short?

We had many conversations about how this bedroom belonged to the Underdog, the B team, which is why we chose Sega, rather than Nintendo, and Anime rather than Disney, for example.

This fictional bedroom we devised was the place we wanted to escape to as children.

It was almost as if, this fictional bedroom we devised was the place we wanted to escape to as children. So in that regard, we achieved what we set out to do, and at least for now, have satisfied our inner child.

Were you ever concerned that such specific references would limit the appeal of the piece and how did you go about ensuring it would appeal to a broad audience?

While the backbone of the film is the universal themes of loneliness and escapism, we wanted this to feel authentic to the era we grew up in, so the use of real-world characters and brands felt like the correct way to go. We talked about creating fictional brands and characters, but this would risk diluting the theme and venturing into parody.

The ‘80s and ‘90s were so culturally polarising, yet so closely related to each other. The ‘80s were all about bold graphics, saturated colours and big hair, while, the ‘90s were about responsibly, anger and sadness and this was reflected in the stark contrast in music, attitudes and fashion between the two decades. This was something we really resonated with and we wanted to capture that.

PLAYGROUNDS is envisioned from the perspective of a toy, what made you want to employ this point-of-view in your story?

We wanted this to be seen through the lens of a child and the toys they play with while they immerse themselves in these fictional worlds. We’ve all experienced going back to the road we grew up on, everything always feels so much smaller than we remember – our reminiscing, nostalgic brains always deceive with memories of scale.

The whole room feeling more like a funfair at night than a traditional bedroom.

So it felt natural that the room should feel expansive, with the plastic toy soldiers serving as our reference point of view, with the whole room feeling more like a funfair at night than a traditional bedroom, while also trying to keep this dark undercurrent of the real world, and reflect that in the toys scenes.

Reading through some of your background information, you described the production as like “a kind of Guerrilla CGI Production”, can you expand on what you mean by this and why you adopted this approach?

With this being a passion project, we knew we had to be flexible and adaptable. One of the primary ways was to make the virtual set of the room GPU ready, and able to fit within 11gb of Vram. This provided us with the flexibility of a virtual cameraman, so we could go into the room and look for moments and shots that worked from a purely cinematic and communicative point of view, using placeholders while we developed the narrative.

The environment was more like that of a videogame level than a locked film frame.

In this regard, the build of the environment was more like that of a videogame level than a locked film frame. Once we’d agreed on the layout, we went into details, and continued to develop the look and feel of the environment, populating it with things in keeping with the theme.

You chose a realistic feel for the aesthetic, what made you decide on this particular visual style and why add the pixelation?

We wanted to immerse the audience and see things from the child’s perspective and this informed a lot of the design decisions we took. While surfaces were rendered realistically, for outlines and shapes we went with a slightly offset, wonky look, which helped to show the world in an imprecise and impulsive way, much like how a child would see it.

The idea of pixelating certain points of the room, creating a 3D vignetting was to help to create that feeling of detachment to the real world, with the outside censored from the eyes of the child, who’s trying to escape and blur the lines of reality and their hidden worlds.

What are you working on next?

We’re always working on something, but as far as passion projects go, we may have a few surprises in store in the not too distant future.

Playgrounds is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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