The Peasants is a painting animation using the traditional stop-motion animation method, which employs so-called inbetweening, which is the process of creating intermediate frames between two keyframes. Its effect is to create the illusion of motion by smoothly transitioning one image into another. In The Peasants, the key frames were painted by oil painters and there are as many as 40,000 of them in the film. The frames in between were prepared by digital painters.
The Peasants has already been seen in theaters by nearly 2 million viewers. This is due to the original form – painting animation. In order for the film to successfully break through among the competition it had to be made in this form – it is its main distinguishing feature. It is thanks to the magic of painting animation that all international premieres to date end with standing ovations. The technique of painting animation lengthened the process of making the film from about two years to more than five, but allowed to show the Polish literary classic in a completely new light, emphasizing its timelessness, picturesqueness and subtle human emotions.
The Peasants novel is filled with descriptions of nature, its mechanisms, delight in life, the earth and people. It was the technique of painting animation that made it possible both to tell the novel's fast-paced plot, with all the richness of the actors' creations, and to painterly render the nuances of nature inspired by the outstanding paintings of the classics of Young Poland painters such as J. Chelmonski, F. Ruszczyc, J. Fałat, L. Wyczółkowski and J. Stanisławski. Thanks to painting animation rather than mere repainting of frames, it was possible to emphasize and saturate emotions and beauty of nature in changing seasons in the film.
All paintings were created in so-called PAWS (Painting Animation Workshop Station) - individual workstations, with standardized lighting, necessary art materials, a camera and laptop. These were built specifically for the production in 4 countries. During the pandemic, these rooms met all necessary health and safety standards (i.e., adequate air exchange through the ventilation/air conditioning system, specific lighting conditions), as well as all epidemic guidelines. Paintings created with eco-friendly, water-based paints, allowed to avoid any harsh chemicals such as turpentine. To ensure the best comfort and quality possible, LED lighting (instead of heat-emitting halogen bulbs) was used in all the stations.
The world of Jagna, Boryna, Antek, and Hanka was created by a group of about 200 talented, young artists – graduates of art academies, conservators and digital artists, working in Poland, Serbia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
Over a period of 2 years, 1,800 physical paintings were created by the painters, from which subsequent frames were painted and animated. In total, more than 40,000 frames were painted in oil. The painters worked on specific scenes - they painted the main frame and the other animation frames for a particular film scene.
The studios where the painters worked were located in Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, and Lithuania.
The film was made as a co-production, which allowed the filmmakers to get funding from international cultural institutions and establish cooperation with local artists in Serbia, Ukraine and Lithuania. The makers of The Peasants decided to take a huge risk with a budget that was very high by Polish and European standards (30 million PLN / 7.5 million USD). The cost alone related to the work of the painters is PLN 9 million, which is more than 2.5 million USD. Financing of the production came largely from public subsidies - a model common for European productions.
In late February and early March 2022, the producers relocated to Poland a group of artists and their families working in Kyiv. Like thousands of refugees arriving in Poland, they lived for weeks in the homes of their friends - The Peasants’ crew. Together with the co-producer on the Ukrainian side, the Polish producers tried to implement security measures for the crew located in Ukraine.
The painting started in 2021, during the pandemic, which meant that in addition to meeting construction standards and health and safety requirements, the studios also had to implement social distancing requirements. The production of the film was not stopped by the pandemic which allowed painters to retain employment during this difficult time.
The worldwide phenomenon of The Peasants is the animation technique that sets the hand-painted images in motion, which does not use AI.
The total cost of the team of painters alone is 9 million PLN – almost 1/3 of the cost of the entire production.
The average remuneration for producing one physical painting (painting the first frame and animation frame sequence) was about 5,000 PLN. The salaries of painters, as with most of the team, were calculated by design. The amount depended on the number of hours, the complexity of a given shot and the number of paintings, as well as the pace at which they were created.
When calculating the salary of a particular painter, the salary for painting the first frame – that is, a full painting – and a series of animation frames was considered as the basis. The rate per frame depended on the level of difficulty of the shot - the number of characters, details, movement and framing. Painters were paid according to the number of frames painted. A specially created PAD (Painting Animation Difficulty) compensation system was used to calculate salaries, which was developed by the production team, including the head of painting animation and supervisors coordinating the work of artists who are also painters. The system provided additional financial bonuses for those who did the work faster than the target.
An online shop has been set up on the film's website, where users from around the world can purchase digital replicas of individual shots from the film. Of each transaction, 5% of the price goes to the artist who painted the shot.
The Peasants team consisted largely of the same professionals that worked on Loving Vincent. Many members of the painting team and digital artists worked on both productions. Thanks to this experience, they have gained new skills and attractive expertise, which open up new opportunities to work on future projects. Some painters will work on future BreakThru Films productions – including one French title and two new projects initiated in Poland (the screen adaptation of Schubert's Winterreise and the animation of Heart of Darkness).