The Movie Dansk

The Production of Valhalla the Movie, 1982 - 1986

Animated feature in the "classic style"
In October 1982 work began on a fully animated film based on the comic series Valhalla. From the beginning the goal was to produce a feature in the "classic style". That is: a movie presenting a dramatic and poetic story, believable characters, perfect animation, fully painted backgrounds, symphonic music etc. The movie took 4 years to complete, and the cost was DKR 35 million (~ 5 million euro), an enormous budget for a Danish movie at the time, but compared to most foreign films in the same style it was a relatively modest amount.

Direction: Peter Madsen and Jeff Varab
The film is directed by Peter Madsen in collaboration with former Disney animator Jeff Varab, who also educated the staff of animators. Peter also filled the role as the movie's art director, establishing the style of the film. Of course it was necessary to change a lot of things from the comic series in order to make it work as an animated film, but it was important to Peter that the film was true to the original comic albums. Søren Håkansson, the colorist of the Valhalla comic albums, worked as leading background painter on the movie. The story of the film was based on a draft that the Valhalla story team originally wrote for the fourth album. The story line was later reworked for the movie by Henning Kure and Peter Madsen. The latter drew the story board for the film. A vast number of artists worked on the movie: animators, background artists, colorists, camera operators etc. When the film was in full production the staff consisted of more than 100 people.

A huge sandwich of paper and plastic
A lot of drawings are needed for a fully animated movie, but it is hard to name a precise number. However, to get an idea of the amount, it can be said that a movie projector shows 24 images per second. In an animated film you just draw these images. For most movements it is possible to get by using 12 drawings per second (each drawing is exposed twice).Valhalla's running time is approximately 80 minutes and it consists of almost 1000 scenes. For each of these scenes there is a stationary background. This background is a watercolor painting. The animators' drawings of the moving characters are transferred to transparent "cells" (plastic sheets), which are painted and placed on top of the background. Approximately 12 cells per second are used (twice the number if the scene has two characters in it, three times the number if there are three etc.). If the character casts a shadow on the ground, the shadow has to be drawn on a separate layer and this layer is double exposed. The same goes for light effects, fire, water, dust etc. On top of all these layers there is sometimes a foreground, for instance a branch that protrudes in front of the characters. All in all it amounts to a huge sandwich of paper and plastic in which the cells are changed for every new movement. But there are many other elements than the animation drawings that are important to the end result. The layout artists think out compositions that have depth and give the illusion of a "real" space. The camera operators add magic to the image. The actors who provide the voices give inner life to the characters. The sound technicians invent funny or dramatic sounds - not to mention the music! But the biggest work of it all is to make sure that everything fits together so that the story works and the characters come to life in the movie. A lot of time is spent on planning, a lot of work is discarded or changed, and it is extremely important that everybody knows what the others do so that it is possible to work together and help one another.

"Thor's Journey to Utgard-Loki"
The story of the animated feature is based on the famous myth "Thor's Journey to Utgard-Loki", in which the two human children Tjalvi and Röskva travel with Thor and Loki to the realm of the Giant King. In the movie we meet the little giant child Quark, who had a minor appearance at the giant Trym's wedding in comic album number 2 - apart from being one of the major characters in albums numbers 4 and 5, which tell the same story as the movie. Valhalla the Movie has been relaunched in the theaters in Denmark several times and the film is available on DVD with soundtracks in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and English.

Copyright: Peter Madsen - webmaster: Sissel Bøe - Translation into English: Ole Lindegaard Henriksen -