By adding subtle narrative detail to the quotidian scenes, Renaud and the team created a sense that we are viewing only a glimpse of a much larger world. The team wanted to set the scene, hint at a wider universe, but focus on one moment at a time.
"Night Shift" showcases the balance struck when abstraction is grounded by realism. Our cell team wanted to explore one of Hornet Director Renaud Lavency's cinematic styleframes, with its highly stylized characters and abstracted environments, and bring them to life with hyperrealistic cinematography and movement.
Directors Renaud Lavency & Natalie Labarre
Production Co Hornet
Managing Partner Hana Shimizu
Head of Production Karen Lawler
Head of Creative Development Kristin Labriola
Production Supervisor Dez Stavracos
Associate Producer Nola Donkin
Editor Minseok Kim
Lead Animator Ty Enos
Animators Seongjin Yoon, Sami Healy, Kaycee Nwakudu
Clean-up Animator Hyo Bin Kang
Compositing Seongjin Yoon
Sound Design Minseok Kim
"To make the scenes feel bigger, we played with microstorytelling." – Hornet CD Natalie Labarre
To achieve a lifelike cinematic quality, the team wanted the camera to feel handheld, and the character movement to be grounded in reality. Each animator filmed their own reference in order to capture the weight and timing of their character's movements.
Renaud was initially inspired by the lights, colors, and cinematic point of view that exists during the nighttime.
Natalie Labarre is a director whose elegant animation style and sophisticated storytelling ability both belie her years. As an emerging director, some of what she brings to the table is what you might expect: a fresh voice, a contemporary sensibility. But beyond that, Natalie is an old-soul drilled in the old-school who thrives on blending worlds together: analog with digital, technique with story, original vision with inch-perfect execution.
In many ways, it’s this navigation of the overlaps that both sums up her background and defines her work today.
Natalie was raised in New York City by French parents. She learned French and English at the same time (and actually thought they were one language). She caught the storytelling bug at an early age after growing up on a healthy dose of Belgian comics and being hypnotized by the characters in Miyazaki and Sylvain Chomet films. From there, she knew she wanted to tell stories. So she attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York and majored in Animation—a curriculum she found surprisingly analog at the time. “My training was super traditional,” she says. “In 2009, everything was on paper. It was painting, paper, drawing by hand.”
It was in her spare time that she taught herself the more digital aspects of design. Though she never abandoned her roots. “Analog artwork has always been part of my work because that’s where I came from. I still try to integrate it the best I can and continue to push analog textures and painterly qualities into the digital design.”
In Fall 2014, Natalie joined Hornet as an Intern. The rest is history. And her particular history as “Natalie, the Director” is impossible to untwine from that of “Natalie, the Hornet Director.” After the internship, she freelanced as an animator with Hornet for three years. A two-year hiatus followed, in which she earned her MFA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art and published a book titled Incredible Jobs You've (Probably) Never Heard Of. Then Hornet knew it was time to have her back. She joined as a full-time 2D animator in Spring 2018 and never looked back. Her hand-drawn painterly animations maturated into something admired by everyone around her. She graduated to the role of Art Director. And along the way she found time, inspiration, and freedom afforded by Hornet to test her directorial chops with critically acclaimed PSA films like Me Too - Daniela and LLS - Grace.
Words frequently used to describe her work are: elegant, evocative, warm, sophisticated, beautiful, illustrative, painterly. But what none of these words truly captures is her Midas-like touch. Every project Natalie works on seems to turn to gold. For lack of a better term, her work has a viral quality. From original Instagram animations that rack up more views than any other posts on Hornet’s Instagram profile to multiple films that have been shortlisted and screened at major festivals around the world—like Annecy, Ottawa, Manchester, ASIFA East, and shots - The Americas—Natalie has a style that, put simply, people love. Really, really love.