‘First I want to entertain you and if you learn something from it, that’s a big bonus,’ Nico Grimm, the Creative Director of Storja Animalta tells Newsbook.com.mt.
Working in collaboration with Heritage Malta, Grimm and his team have spent the last two years producing a seven-episode animation looking at six different periods of Malta’s history, from the prehistoric temple builders to the eras of the Phoenicians, Turks and Knights, right up to the French blockade.
After submitting a pilot episode looking at St Paul, Heritage Malta had responded positively to the idea and decided to give them a hand with researching the periods and correcting some inaccuracies in their animations.
‘I put oranges in the fruit bowl, the curator said it was wrong’
Grimm explains that during the production of Episode 3 about St Paul, the team had portrayed the character visiting his father in hospital. One of the aesthetics of the scene was the oranges in the fruit bowl.
When the curator looked at the scene, he quickly told them that there hadn’t been oranges at the time.
‘If those are oranges, that’s wrong,’ Grimm recalls, saying that it was quickly changed to a pomegranate. ‘It was right for the season and the period’.
‘I always thought that when you go to see relatives in hospital, you take oranges. These are things you take for granted. These were quite interesting insights to come out of the project.’
This wasn’t the only discovery during the production of the animations, Grimm explains.
While researching Malta’s Medieval era, the team discovered that Mdina’s fortifications as we now know them weren’t always like this.
The sloping bastion walls which still defend the city were once a straight vertical ‘curtain’ wall which had been designed during the Arab era of Malta’s history. When the Knights took over Malta, the fortifications completely changed shape.
‘It was like a scene from a Guy Ritchie movie’
The final two episodes of the series are expected to take place during the French revolutionary period and blockade of Malta between 1798 and 1800.
Grimm explains that this had been one of his most favourite periods.
‘This was the most mature of our episodes allowing us to buckle down and see the story from different perspectives. It was full of colourful characters and convoluted stories. It sometimes felt like a Guy Ritchie movie,’ Grimm recalls.
The creator went on to explain one of the era’s main characters, the Maltese Corsair Guillermo Lorenzi.
‘This was a guy straight out of a movie script. He’s big and gruff and he’s got a parrot’.
‘In my head, if a family tunes in and watches this, that’s perfect’
When asked about where the line is between this being educational or purely entertaining, Grimm explains that it’s really for the latter with the hope that many different audiences will enjoy it and learn something.
‘If the story is good, if they find it entertaining, they will absorb the facts, understand the story. When people arrive to the programme, they will be introduced to characters from the time.’
‘If you learn something from it, that’s a big bonus. Every episode is designed with this in mind,’ he adds.
Grimm explains that the material is aimed at a wide audience, from those studying the period to those with a strong background in history. As for the humour, that’s aimed at a contemporary audience familiar with US animation shows like Bob’s Burgers or Family Guy.
‘The history buffs will hopefully tell us that we got it right,’ he says smiling.
Most importantly, ‘In my head, if the family is around the dinner table and they put this on the TV. That’s perfect. It’s tailored to be perfect family material. I’d love to see that,’ Grimm adds.