Made in 1995, just before the onset of digital animation, Robert Stephenson employs the traditional cell animation technique. He draws his characters with just a pencil, directly onto the ‘frosted’, transparent acetate cells, with coloured backgrounds underneath. This gives the film its vibrant, immediate look, that special ‘touched by human hand’ appeal unachievable as yet with CGI.
A man’s confidence is sorely tested by the likes of an ingenious redback spider. Neither he, nor a boy neighbour, can thwart the spider’s will to live. It is the spider who has a final and hilarious revenge on the know-it-all, yet unprepared man.
In the opening scenes, Redback seems to be a film about an annoying and deadly redback spider. What follows is, refreshingly, from the spider’s point of view. Sprayed with chemicals, trapped for ‘a natural scientific experiment’, set on fire and flushed down the toilet, the spider is ready for revenge, which it accomplishes with gusto.
Writer, director and animator Robert Stephenson says:
I created Redback as a light comedy showing that although spiders create fear in humans, it should be noted that humans are invasive and much more deadly in the spider world. A spider only defends to protect itself, whereas humans can attack spiders with mission-like zeal.
Initially I designed the spider as the stereotype – dark and sinister. On reflection, I felt like I needed to turn that design on its head and make it more playful and innocent. In turn, I made the humans ugly and clumsy.
Redback won the Dendy Award for Best Animation at the 1996 Sydney Film Festival.
Notes by Antoinette Starkiewicz