The animated science of Angela and Bozzetto

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Science and cartoons, a perfect combination. Proof that animation can be grown up. Bruno Bozzetto has always supported him, since 60 years ago he rewarded his medium Italian in cartoon format with the short film of his debut An Oscar for Mr. Rossi. And since Oscar it was twenty years later his memorable cartoons for Piero Angela, to animate even more the key program of scientific popularization in Italy, Quark. The longest running transmission of mother Rai, with the heir Superquark which on 6 October was also back on RaiPlay for ten episodes in the version Superquark +. When asked if science needs cartoons, they will both be called to respond in streaming tomorrow, together with the Pixar set designer Ralph Eggleston and the writer Massimo Polidoro, in a meeting conducted by Alessandro Bettonagli, artistic director of the BergamoScienza festival.

“I did not know Bruno Bozzetto personally, but I admired him for his works, those funny and intelligent cartoons – tells us Angela, to whom yesterday in Trieste was awarded the Master honoris causa in Science Communication from the International School of Advanced Studies. -. Then one day I received a letter from him asking me to make an animated film inspired by my book The man and the puppet. I was flattered and I got the idea of ​​doing a sort of test. It was the time I was making Quarked thus began our collaboration. The cartoon proved to be a magnificent tool for explaining concepts and situations that would otherwise be difficult to illustrate and document ».

The strange couple of science on TV was launched. The fussy lord of disclosure sent his storyboard to Bozzetto and the ironic cartoonist animated his part. «I have always had the gift of visualizing every concept and situation – recalls Bozzetto -, but with Piero Angela it was often quite difficult concepts. It helped that they were written with the rare gift of clarity. In ten years we have done a hundred short films and heard on the phone about ten times. Angela sent me a trace but at a certain point it happened that he had fallen in love with the idea of ​​suggesting the images himself. So he had begun to add animation ideas to the script. I then folded the page in two, covering his suggestions so as not to be influenced, but in the end I discovered that in 80% of cases my animation matched his ».

It was 1981 when their partnership took off and for Quark a total of 45 cartons lasting 7-8 minutes, some longer. Bozzetto’s pencil made it possible to explain very complex topics: relativity, quantum mechanics, entropy, DNA, embryology. «Only in this way – explains Angela – was it possible to explain well a natural phenomenon such as, for example, gestation. Then we also made 14 prime time episodes on the economy and 11 episodes on Europe. Finally, cartons of only 30 seconds, in total a series of 200 pills ».

30-second incursions that covered all knowledge, not just science: civics, medicine, the dangers of the home, driving a car. «We were doing real public service – underlines Angela -. I remember wandering around the Rai studios from the various column managers to ask if they would put these pills on me. In the end, almost 5,000 have passed ”. «Among the most difficult cartoons to make – says Bozzetto – I remember those on economic issues, made together with the experts of the Ambrosetti studio in Milan. Numbers and percentages do not allow you to indulge in your imagination as when we talk about the brain, instincts, bodily and facial expressions, movements and gestures that offer so many possibilities in terms of animation ». But an absolute dogma has always informed their association.

«We totally agreed on the need for synthesis and extreme simplicity – continues Bozzetto – to not allow the viewer to get distracted. Too rich scenography and sophisticated animation would have been dangerous because they would have attracted the viewer too much, distracting him from the concepts we had to explain and illustrate. The animated drawing must be at the service of dissemination ».

Then unfortunately the economy, understood as a mere wallet, took over science. «Bozzetto turned these 35mm cartoons on high quality photographic film and each of the 25 frames per second was hand colored – explains Angela -. It was an expensive job, but at the time bearable by our budgets. At a certain point, however, computerized graphics arrived … Bozzetto generously would have done the creative part even for free, but the same material costs were now too high. So we had to give up. But we have shown that those who explain must undress of any seriousness. On TV, as in school, one is even more serious and rigorous, having fun and having fun ».

TV that could soon return to review the exploits of a revived Mr. Rossi struggling with the digital and hyper-technological world. «Once Rossi used to go to the beach and ski – reveals Bozzetto -. And if old Rossi was looking for happiness, he will only be looking for survival. And we also add a granddaughter, a so-called “nerd”. We’ll see”.


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