‘The Inventor’ Illustrates Leonardo da Vinci’s Final Days Through Music and Stop-Motion Animation

Few people lived a life as bold and controversial as Leonardo da Vinci. It’s easy to forget sometimes he was also a human being with doubts who struggled with the same things that trouble just about all of us.

In animated feature “The Inventor,” writer/director Jim Capobianco, who shared an original screenplay Oscar nomination with Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava for “Ratatouille,” was always interested in the more personal side of the famed painter and inventor. “The Inventor” combines traditional 2D and stop-motion animation as well as original music and lyrics by Alex Mandel.   

“I’m telling the story of [da Vinci] at the end of his life and years in France,” says Capobianco. “I knew he was going to die [at the end of the story] and I was asking what that means to a man like Leonardo da Vinci. Having researched him, I learned that he believed that he procrastinated a lot and he thought he didn’t finish a lot of the things he set out to do. So, I thought about what it would mean to this person, this character. I realized it’s about what you leave behind for others and how you affect other people with what you do, how you change other people’s lives while you’re here. I realized with Leonardo da Vinci, he’s the perfect kind of foil for that because here I am making a film about him 500 years after he lived, and we still talk about him. He has such an impact on us and the idea of invention and the idea of curiosity and everything he accomplished.” 

Capobianco co-directed the film with Pierre-Luc Granjon, whose strong stop-motion background was invaluable to creating a movie with two distinct visual styles that flow together. Pic is an Irish co-production presented by Curiosity Studio (Ireland) in partnership with Foliascope (France), Aerial Contrivance Studios and Robert Rippberger’s SIE Films. 

International Sales are being handled by MK2, and U.S. sales by the Exchange. Universal Pictures Content Group  holds rights in several international territories. It was chosen to screen at the Annecy International Animation Festival as a work in progress. 

The voice cast features Daisy Ridley, Marion Cotillard, Matt Berry and Stephen Fry, among others. Capobianco was thrilled to work with so many notable actors on this story. 

Part of Capobianco’s lengthy talks about the film also included collaborating with longtime friend Mandel, who would come up with ideas for the ways his compositions could be used to tell the story that later influenced the animation.   

“This is the biggest, most complex project I’ve done,” says Mandel. “I’d written some songs for ‘Brave,’ I’ve scored films, I’ve scored streaming shows. This was artistically and technically, by far the most complicated and for a lot of reasons. We recorded strings in Budapest, but they recorded the woodwinds and the brass in New Zealand, and I did the guitar parts and I learned to play the lute. It wasn’t strictly Renaissance music. Leonardo was ahead of his time — he was designing flying machines in the year 1500. I would try stuff until it felt right for Jim because it’s his film, but it just meant I had to stay on my toes.”  

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