Long before society was pushed to accept artificial intelligence as a vital way of thinking and imagining, effectively threatening humans’ innate ability to do so, there were great thinkers whose minds were nurtured and celebrated in much the same way as advanced computing technology Today is.
One of these people was Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the 16th century and is perhaps best known for painting portraits like “The Mona Lisa” and murals like “The Last Supper.” An accomplished and celebrated Italian artist, engineer, scientist, philosopher and architect, as featured in the new animated film, The inventorDa Vinci was also a complicated and flawed person.
Written and co-directed by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Ratatouille, Jim Capobiancoand co-directed by Pierre Luc Granjon (A little adventure), The inventor is a seamless blend of hand-drawn and stop-motion animation that is beautiful to look at. The film chronicles artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci’s journey after he escapes Italy and teams up with Princess Marguerite in France to answer an immortal question in his soul: “What is the meaning of life?”
Featuring the voices of Stephen Fry (Savages) as da Vinci and Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Princess Marguerite, The inventorAlthough 12 years in the making, it is a well-timed and refreshing, factual reminder of the possibilities and capabilities of pure, free and wondrous human thought.
The screenwriter and co-director was Jim Capobianco The inventor with Pierre-Luc Granjon sat down with MovieWeb in an exclusive interview to discuss what inspired the film and the significance of its stylistic approach.
What inspired a film about da Vinci?
“For me,” Capobianco explained, “the inspiration for The inventor came from the perspective that while we touch on the idea of Leonardo as a genius, we also portray him as a human being.” He continued about da Vinci:
“When I was researching him, in his drawings he had lists of food and things he needed to do and buy, and notes about the problems he was having with his apprentices, like how he couldn’t get on with things without getting distracted . And so it was like looking into your diary. And those things really brought out the human element of him. And that’s what I really wanted to explore.”
Granjon added similar sentiments. “I remember when I first read the script I was really excited when I realized that, even though Leonardo was already an old man when he arrived in France, he still had so much life in him , a curiosity.” about everything. I think if we can keep that within us too, that curiosity about life, that can keep us alive.”
“And also what Jim said about Leonardo’s humanity,” Granjon continued, “we see that fragility in the film. He was known for starting things and then not finishing them, and that is an aspect of his life that is rare.” And so in this film, in The inventor, that is what is told. And I really enjoy that. Leonardo was human, after all, and that was definitely a very good thing to explore.”
Regarding da Vinci’s procrastination tendencies, Capobianco noted how universally relatable it is:
The idea of procrastination and struggling, of just not feeling like you can finish everything and get things done, I think really speaks to people.
Why computer animation wasn’t an option for the inventor
From conception to opening weekend, it was a long 12 years before the release of The inventor. One way to perhaps move things along more quickly would have been to focus on computer animation rather than stop-motion and hand-drawn art. However, this was never an option.
“To me,” Capobianco emphasized, “a film about Leonardo da Vinci felt like it should actually be a crafted art form, and the two animation techniques that are crafted are stop motion and drawn animation. That’s where the idea of combining both came from them seemed perfect to honor Leonardo. He was an inventor, after all.
Capobianco, who received a BFA in character animation from Cal Arts and worked on animated films such as The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, fantasy 2000, The life of a beetle, Toy Story 2., Monster Inc., And Find Nemo shared additional insight into intentional style choices for The inventor:
“I also have a background in hand-drawn animation. That’s exactly why I got into animation in the first place, to make these types of films. And then computer animation appeared during my school years. For me, my love has always been hand-drawn animation, and I’ve always appreciated stop motion. For me this was the perfect path The inventor.”
“But,” he noted, “I also had no idea how to make a stop-motion film. That’s why I needed Pierre-Luc to help me.”
Granjon, who studied at the prestigious Lyon School of Applied Arts in France and created the stop-motion films A little adventure And The other child’s castle (among other award-winning productions) added: “As Jim said, in a way it was a no-brainer to make a stop-motion film about Leonardo. It was a good choice because Leonardo wanted to know everything about life, weather, water, the whole earth, and he was just curious about everything. And he enjoyed building things, so building the puppets for the film was like Leonardo in a way.”
Capobianco spoke in more detail about the technical aspects and how he thought da Vinci would have reacted: “The design of the fittings was very interesting. They are made of metal, and figuring out the connections and how they work was a very difficult mechanical process that we know da Vinci would have loved.
The timeless inspiration of da Vinci
Although Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519, he remains one of the most studied and well-known names in history. Through The inventorthere is hope in how it can reach new generations and perhaps rekindle older ones.
Capobianco said: “For the children, The inventor will be something they will enjoy, I hope, and something they will find magic in and want to return to throughout their lives to experience something new and be inspired differently each time,” he added :
And then I hope that adults come out of the theater understanding the depth of the story of Leonardo’s legacy and I hope that it brings back to people the importance that they have for each other in life.
Granjon agreed, explaining the perhaps unintentional but certainly effective message about the importance of elevating the human spirit, especially in the age of AI.
“I hope children can realize how much they need to maintain their curiosity throughout their lives and not lose their dreams,” Granjon said. “To keep his dream alive, that’s basically what Leonardo did. At 60, he was still exploring life and discovering new things. It is amazing.”
“Yes,” Capobianco agreed. “People need to be reminded that we all still need to know something about the world.”
The inventor hits theaters on September 15th. You can find showtimes and further information here Here.