Stash Interview: Michael Frei on “Plug & Play”

On Feb 2nd Swiss animator Michael Frei released the Plug & Play game for iPad and iPhone based on his multi-award winning animated short of the same name. Stash catches up with Michael, to find out more about the charming, quirky, minimalist six-minute film and how it came to be:

Stash: Tell us about the production process for your film “Plug & Play.”

MF: Every single frame of PLUG & PLAY is drawn on my laptop. I was traveling quite often during production and had to get rid of paper and pens. I drew the film just using the integrated touchpad of my laptop using my index finger.

Interestingly the word ‘digital’ originates from the word ‘digitus’, Latin for finger, and relates to the fact it was mainly fingers being used to count numbers before the invention of computers. It just made sense to draw a digital film describing a binary world by using my finger to turn pixels on or off in Photoshop.

What inspired you to create the film?

The project started in 2012 when I published my first animation movie “Not About Us” on Vimeo and was included in Staff Picks. I was surprised how many people watched my rather strange film. At the same time I was even more surprised how few of the viewers actually watched the entire movie to the end.

There is a lot of scrubbing going on. The web is an interactive medium – but watching films is a passive experience. That was when I started to not only think of a film that the audience could play but play with. That project eventually became PLUG & PLAY. And could there be a better way to play a digital film than with your own digit?

And now the film is a game…

I collaborated with Mario von Rickenbach, an independent Swiss game developer. Mario started to develop a system where drawings, animations and physics could mix. After working sessions in Zurich, Tallinn, Berlin and New York, we eventually rented a desk in an office building in Geneva and worked almost a year to turn PLUG & PLAY into a game.

The game was released worldwide on the 2nd of February 2015 for USD$2.99 and was coproduced by Etter Studio and SRG SSR, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. It is nominated for the IGF Nuovo Award 2015 at GDC, held in San Francisco in March 2015.

The game trailer:

Animation: Michael Frei
Code: Mario von Rickenbach