This Way Up

The Oscar Nominated Animated Short with Hellish Humour

When Cardboard boxes have THIS WAY UP printed on them, it is a message to the handler requesting a certain respect for the contents. In this Oscar-nominated short, the box is a coffin, the content is a deceased elderly woman, and the handlers are two clumsy and unfortunate undertakers whose bad luck literally takes them to hell and back.

Christopher O’Reilly, co-writer and Co-Founder of Nexus, embarked on this project with Smith & Foulkes after they attended a festival in Portland, US. While there, they were approached by Mike Judge (creator of Beavis & Butt-Head and King of the Hill) and were asked to put forward an idea for a comedy short for his Animation Show. That set the wheels in motion for a short idea, which would later get partially funded by the BBC. They produced it over the course of a year.

As they had a limited production time, the style of the film is a result of their original idea, and the production realities. ‘We tried to embrace the strength of the initial concept art and decided not to fully realise the backgrounds.’ Christopher told us. ‘However it was important that we had detail and character in the leads, since you need to engage with them.’

The final product was an impressionistic background with little bursts of beautiful and intricate details. ‘Overall maybe you could describe it as Surreal British Neo-Gothic,’ Christopher added, ‘but that’s a thing we just made up.’

Christopher told us a little more about the film:

The Plus: Where did the idea for this film come from?
Christopher O’Reilly:
We wanted to explore an idea with potential for strong visual comedy. We considered a lot of initial ideas but we were drawn to the thought of two delivery guys who have to collaborate to achieve something. Something like Eric Syke’s 1967 film, The Plank. Then we realised it would hugely raise the stakes if what they were delivering was a coffin. Thing’s developed from there.

TP: How did the directors/Nexus feel about the Oscar’s nomination?
Everyone naturally was very excited. It helps get the film seen by such a large audience, which is really gratifying. The whole thing is quite a whirlwind of interviews and meetings. Adam and Alan took to most of it rather well, bar the tuxedos!

TP: What’s the biggest challenge during the whole process?
Animation production is a series of challenges. Technically, it was probably just getting the full film rendered on a fairly limited budget. Creatively, it was the fine-tuning of the complex choreography of the action. We were making tiny tweaks on the edit right up until the final day to keep the balance.

TP: Given the short time you had to make this film, did you feel rushed in the process? Is there something you would change if you had more time?
Had we had unlimited time, inevitably we would still be making it. The film is kind of a product of its limitations and that is a process that works for us.

TP: How is the final version of the movie different than what you imagined at the beginning of the process?
That’s hard to say as it evolved slowly to the point where it seemed inevitable. The music was a bit of a surprise. I think we imagined something more piano based originally, but the score from John Greswell and Christopher Taylor surprised us and nicely moved from contemplative to over-the-top action.

TP: What’s next for Nexus?
We’re now developing a feature directed by Smith & Foulkes and produced by Claire Jennings (producer of Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Coraline). We also have some other shorts and TV work in development too.