Animator: Meelis Arulepp

- Birth: Tartu (Estonia) during the time when Estonia was under a red Soviet regime

- Directing animator
- Storyboard artist
- Lead animator (or supervising animator) and storyboard artist in A Film Estonia

Bio Summary
- Born in Tartu (Estonia) during the time when Estonia was under a red Soviet regime. Cannot recall anything disturbing or negative from childhood.

- Discovered passion form animation at an early age (kindergarten).

Early Life/Family
- Born in Estonia
- One older sister and brother

- Discovered his passion for animation at an early age. In kindergarten, his school use to have a film sessions each Wednesday. A huge (and noisy) film projector was brought to a big hall and some Russian cartoons were shown on a white canvas on a wall. After each screening when the lights were lit he stood there next to the projector-man and watched how he rewound the films and just wished that a small piece of film would drop on the floor. He just wanted to hold a tiny piece of film in his hands and take a look at the tiny frames. He wanted to see how the series of images differ from each other little by little. Just the fact that drawings could move and live had magic to him. One day, his mom took his family to a cinema to see Disney's Snow White. These occasions were extremely rare back then since they were living in a closed system and foreign films were not shown too often. So Snow white (and few Disney shorts before that) just blew his mind. He wanted to try to draw cartoons myself after this experience. The very next evening he took two chairs at home, put a glass plate between them and a lamp underneath it facing upwards. That was his light table where he drew very crude drawings with no fixing method. However, he just loved being able to make this movement out of mere drawings. He preferred staying inside with his light box then going out to play with his brother.

- Tartu Kunstikool (1972-1984)
- Tartu 10keskkool (1972-1980)

- Arulepp attended art classes at night after school to learn how to draw better. He went to the dean to tell her about his passion for animation. Unfortunately, the dean informed him they did not teach animation at that school.

- After that school, he went to Art College in Tartu 1980-1984, but that school also did not teach animation. There was a teacher, a very friendly man, who was also interested in animation and had done some simple animation with his 8-mm camera. So he taught Arulepp a few basic animation rules and encouraged him to continue in this field. Arulepp bought an 8-mm camera himself and tried to test his animation experiments with that. However, there was no education of animation. No courses or books except there were few books written on a subject but they were too simple and not too reliable. There was even no VCR systems around were one could do some studies. All he had was his burning desire to learn.

- Arulepp at 15 years old would travel 80 km to Tallinn where his relatives lived to watch two Disney programs every Thursday. The program that showed these Disney cartoons was called Pätkis. He would take his 8-mm camera with him, put a tripod in front of the TV set and as soon as the Disney program he started filming. After coming back home, he would quickly develop the film and finally discover how animation was possible. He described it as one of the best moments of his life. He discovered different techniques like squash and stretch and how those very distorted frames didn’t look distorted once the film started rolling.

- Before he finishing school, he persuaded his art teachers to make a small animation film as his graduation work. So after their agreement, he went to Tallinn and had an Estonian Animation Film maker Priit Pärn as his first mentor in a studio called Tallinnfilm (now called Joonisfilm). While he was working next door to Pärn (he was doing his film "Time Out" back then), Arulepp would go to his room and ask for advice. He said it was a thrill to be in that place and see some animators working there, although the films they were doing were not his cup of tea and the style the animators drew was not what he was after.

- So he made the short graduation film all by himself, animated, inked (on cels), painted and shot under a camera. The length of a film was about a minute and took him 2 and half months to make. It was shown in a big theater next to their art school and all the teachers and students went to see it.

- After the school he was accepted to work in the same studio as a junior animator. It was in the spring that he went to Soviet Army for 2 years in Autumn (1984-86). (Estonia was still occupied by their red neighbor.)

- He went back to Tallinnfilm in January 1987 and worked in several short films there. The animators working there had a different style and the scenes he made differed from the rest of animator's work because he tried to incorporate his knowledge of flexibility there. He didn’t think it did any good for these films though.

- He also carried small moviola to the studio to showed his discoveries to some of the animators there but they did not seem to share in his enthusiasm.

- At some point he was considering going to work in Moscow. There was a huge studio called "Soyuzmultfilm" that released about 60 animated short films a year. A real factory with some really good talents was there and he even visited it once and really enjoyed it.

- In Spring 1990 he went to work to a Studio called B-Studio, which had just been established in Tallinn by Rein Raamat. The films they were about to produce seemed to be more commercial- (and less artistic) oriented. He had a position as a senior animator there.

- After few months the golden opportunity came: one animator friend of his was invited to go to Denmark Copenhagen to a studio called A Film and he asked Arulepp to join him, since he knew that Arulepp was a big Disney fan and he was told that they produce their films in a similar style. At that time, A Film was a new studio with young enthusiastic staff leading it and they were actually recruiting people. It was the only studio in Europe that made films in classical manner and had even a former Disney animator Jeff Warab there as a supervising animator. He believed that his was his moment. So they were given an assignment, a small animation test that they had to animate within a week.

- He remembered that film very clearly, the character was a 2-legged humanoid cat from Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle and he had to lift a heavy box.

- That's where he realized how little he knew about animating and everything. For instance the animation method they used to work with before was based on Russian system where top-pegs were used for animating, also animation was drawn on a half transparent animation papers so animator could see few images underneath the top drawing. In A Film, they were given bottom pegs, a "normal" non-transparent animation paper and they were introduced a technique called "flipping" which enabled to see five drawings in a movement. Also, a big emphasis was put on a solid 3-dimensional constructed drawing, something they haven't been dealing with before.

- The good thing was that they got supervision from lead animators; they didn't draw a thing for Arulepp and his friend in that test period (that they would do later quite often), all that there was had to be their own work. His English wasn't very good at that time but since he’d seen and studied some Disney films he understood pretty clearly what he was told and what the aim was. So after one week of heavy late night working and sweating over drawing boards, the test was finished and he was accepted to work as a junior animator in A Film, and his friend's position was a clean-up inbetweener. It was in September 1990. And this was a time that he considered as really a starting point for his professional career and learning animation.

- The first film Arulepp jumped in to was Don Bluth's "The Troll in Central Park" (The film was put on hold later and was released few years later). He got some very short and simple scenes to animate and learned each more about animation each day.

- He remembered his first dialogue scene from the film; that was after he had done some simple so-called transportation scenes. It was a medium shot with a troll character called Stanley, he had a steering wheel in his hand that he had to move slowly (the scene took place on a flying boat), he had few small humanoid flowers crawling on top of his shoulder and his line was: "It's easy! But first - you gotta have a dream!"

- It didn’t seem like a junior animator scene to him. I had some excellent help from different animators (Jeff was too busy so he delegated supervising to the younger animators).

- He remembered after working on it for about a week or so he finally had the courage to show it to Jeff. He had few comments, so he worked over a weekend and showed the scene to him next Monday. He just looked at it in monitor one time, then asked Arulepp to bring the scene. Then Jeff put it all into peg-bars and flipped it all thru. He marked out just four or five drawings and pulled them out of the pile, the rest went to straight to trash bin. Then he'd go over those 4-5 drawings and told Arulepp that he should build his scene on those drawings only. It was his introduction to pose to pose animation whereas Arulepp only knew a "straight ahead method". His whole weekend went into the trash but he was really happy about it.

- It took Arulepp about 9 months until he started to understand the animation basics and was able to actually use them. The rest was just a work but also enjoyed every minute of it.

- There were several films were he worked as animator. Mostly American and German ones but also 1 Danish one called "The Jungle Jack", (the name was Hugo in Danish); about a rare jungle creature and his fox (girl) friend. Arulepp was assigned to animate two monkeys (and some shots with Jack) that he really enjoyed.

- After working few years in A Film, their bosses asked if they’d like to go to Estonia and set up a studio there. Arulepp and his friend said yes of course.

- So Arulepp moved back to Estonia and we started a company there in Tallinn called A Film Estonia, which is where he has been working until now.

- He noted that the animation world has changed quite a bit recently. Thanks to internet, the work flow between different countries has became really fast and efficient. He also tried a bit of CGI but admitted it's not really his cup of tea.

- He did supervise their CGI animators here, but didn’t animate CGI himself.

- Few years ago, A Film Estonia produced their own little short film called "The Litle Shortsighted Snake", and last year they had "A Great painter", another film produced there, based on a famous Estonian children book. He was co-directing them and had some fun with it. He did know what the mistakes were in those films and that is something he’d like to avoid in their next projects.

- In current year he has mostly done storyboarding for CGI full length movies and also animated few commercials.

- At the moment he is busy with an Irish project, a 30-minute TV special based on Nikolai Gogol's "Overcoat". It's going to be a mixture between 2D classical animation and AfterEffects. The story is divided into 2 parts and will be animated in 2 studios, in Estonia and in Ireland. We are taking care of the classical 2D part.

- He says they have a very beautiful and heart warming story and very lovely characters.

Career Outline:
- Guest Teacher: The Animation Workshop (1998-Present)
- Animator: A Film Estonia (1990-Present)
- Animator: A. Film A/S of Denmark (1990-1995)
- Senior Animator: B-Studio (1990)
- Junior Animator: Tallinnfilm (now called Joonisfilm)
- Intern: Tallinnfilm (now called Joonisfilm)

Comments On Style:
- 2D Classical, anything from slapstick to slower intimate scenes. Arulepp prefers a style similar to Disney.

- Disney old classics + old Russian animated shorts

- When I had finally gotten contact with Arulepp, he seemed to be a very kind man but also a busy worker. He asked if he could respond to the email in a few days so he had time to write a response since he was so busy. When he got back to me, I was shocked at the amount of time and detail he went into his response. He had given me a full interview about his life and I was moved by how much effort he put into this response. It was truly touching, especially considering how odd a request it was and how busy he seemed. I honestly think he is a kind, humble man who is truly passionate about animation and art. He has inspired me and given me hope about my future in this industry.

- His interview has given me a full anecdote about his life and pursuit of animation.

- He created his own light box in kindergarten using a light bulb, a piece of glass, and two chairs

Albert (Storyboard)(DK/Feature)
The Olsen Gang in Deep Trouble (Animation Supervisor)(DK/Feature)
Olsen Gang gets polished (Animation Supervisor)(DK/Feature)
The Little Short-Sighted Snake
(Short) (animator: A. Film Estonia)
Asterix and the Vikings (animator: A.
Film Estonia) / (supervising animator: A. Film Estonia)

El Cid: The Legend (animation supervisor: A. Film) / (animator: A. Film)
The 3 Wise Men (animation supervisor: A. Film Eesti)
Jester Till (animation supervisor: A. Film Estonia)
Eight Crazy Nights (animator: A-Film)
Karlsson on the Roof (supervising animator: A. Film Eesti)
Die Abrafaxe - Unter schwarzer Flagge (lead animator)
Christmas Carol: The Movie (animation crew: A Film Estonia, Tallinn)
Queen Dagmar (Short) (animator)
Pettson och Findus - Kattonauten (animation supervisor)
A Fish Tale (animator) / (inbetween supervisor: A. Film Eesti)
Pettson & Findus - Katten och gubbens år (animation supervisor)
Benjamin Blümchen (TV Series) (character designer - 1 episode)
- Benjamin Blümchen als Förster (1999) ... (character designer)
Gurin with the Foxtail (animator)
Quest for Camelot (animator: A-Film)
When Life Departs (Short) (lead animator)
Jungledyret 2 - den store filmhelt (chief animator: Estonia)
All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (animator)
The Secret Weapon (animator: "Svoger")
Felidae (animation crew: A-Film)
Asterix Conquers America (animator)
The Jungle Creature: Hugo (chief animator)
Once Upon a Forest (animator: A-Film)
Der kleene Punker (animator)
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (animator: A-Film)
Cod Liver Oil (Short) (animator)

The Great Painter (Short)
The Little Short-Sighted Snake (Short)

Art Department-
The Little Short-Sighted Snake (Short) (storyboard artist)


Zlín International Film Festival for Children and Youth. 2014- Golden slipper, nominated for Best Animated Film
Suur maalritöö (2013)
Shared with: • Aina Järvine

Related Links:
-He attached a link to his recent show reel on youtube:

Bibliographic References:
1. *Animation Studio A Film Estonia*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
2. *Facebook: Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014. a href="
3. * Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
4. *IMDB*., 1990. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
*Linkedin: Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
*6. **The Animation Studio: Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., 2009. Web. 18 Oct. 2014. .
*7. **The New York Times*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
*8. **Turner Classic Movies: Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014. .
*9. **Youtube: Meelis Arulepp*. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Contributors To This Listing:
- Many contrubuter is the interview with Meelis Arulepp.
Kaitlin Marie Cordina

Animators Hall of Fame