An interview with Kuba Jabłoński, art director of „Hardkor 44”


About a month ago Platige Image announced their new project – „Hardkor 44”. You’ve seen the concept art, now it’s time to meet the man behind all that cybernetic madness. We invite you to read an interview with Kuba Jabłoński, art director of „Hardkor 44”.

Firstly, let us congratulate you (and the rest of the team) on „The Kinematograph” – it made a great impression on us. Just as the amount and the minuteness of the concept art. How did it happen that you got involved in this project?

Almost by coincidence. When I finished working with Bartek Kik on “Teaching Infinity” Tomek (Bagiński) slipped me some commercial work. I designed a few advertising bears and monsters. I was also asked to design a few heads for “The Kinematograph”, just as a test. It all started with these few drawings.

The idea of using static, painted backgrounds was brilliant. Was it yours?

The painted backgrounds were the director’s idea. They were supposed to speed up the production and above all take away the total and literal three-dimensionality. Make the film more comic-like, flatten it, take away the literality. I’m not a „CGTalk geek” :) but thanks to the fact that the graphics is simplified and deformed I think I managed to solve the problem.

Let’s move to the hot subject that „Hardkor 44” surely is. Your illustrations created a sensation on the internet and people, not only in Poland but all over the world, were enthusiastic about them. But let’s start with the origins of the concept for the film. Is there any connection with a comic book „Warsaw” by Paweł Nowakowski?

You have to ask The Warsaw Rising Museum and Tomek Bagiński himself about the particulars of the inspirations. I think that all the comic books about the Uprising issued by the Museum and other publishers, as well as all the comic books piling in wardrobes of people connected with this project had their hand in it:) I would also like to add that I’m not the author of all the work that you could see online. Two other artists worked on this project. Maciej Kuciara and Norden. They did a great job.


You can see different inspirations in these images. It makes me think right away about „Warhammer 40.000” and „Warzone”, the Wolfenstein series, comic books about Hellboy or anime. But these are just the first associations. What was your actual inspiration when creating your own, dieselpunk version of WW II?

I graduated from the Film School in Łódź and my master’s thesis was on computer games. I know perfectly well all these universes and I could name many, many more. Nowadays you cannot escape such inspirations just as you cannot escape from comparisons or plagiarism allegations. I was raised on Warhammer, for me it’s a part of pop culture that you cannot erase from your memory. Designing characters for such projects as “Hardkor 44” is juggling with known motifs plus a little of individuality from the artist. I may disclose a secret that I tried not to get carried away when drawing. The style was supposed to seem obvious, so that you cannot separate it from the subject. However, these are only concept sketches, they will change and evolve. What we have now is the basis for further work.

As it often happens with concepts, they are surely only a part of the ideas which will get into the film, and even these may change. Are you going to force the more spectacular designs (e.g. the penknife-Nazi ;)) into the final visual concept of the film?

A designer works for a director and tries to submit his artistic vision to the director’s vision. Projects I like the most are when you can show the maximum of your imagination. „Hardkor 44” is not an animated, non-commercial and purely artistic project. It is an action film with real actors and in sci-fi style, but it has many restrictions connected with logic, laws of physics and with the script most of all. I’ll try to push as hard as I can, the penknife-Nazi happens to go very well with the script. My role is to help to make a good film and not only to show off my possibilities as an artist.

What the cooperation with The Warsaw Rising Museum on this project actually consits in?

It’s not for me to tell. Let me just say that there would be no „Hardkor 44” without this cooperation. It is a joint effort from the very beginning. People working there are unusually open. At a press conference, after talking to the Museum authorities I came to a conclusion that actually they are great guys. Let me show off and say that they’ve opened the gates of their storehouses for me and I’m going there soon in order to fondle all sorts of exhibits.


„Hardkor 44” is going to be a live action flick. Have you already thought about the cast?

The casting for robot Nazis takes place on a graphic tablet:) The insurgents, on the other hand, are a bigger problem. The director and the producer would like the characters to be iconic. I collect photos of people that I could see as specific characters but it’s a long way to the actual casting.

Your aim is to reach viewers worldwide. Will the dialogues be in Polish?

This is a question to the director and to producers. With “The Kinematograph” there were many unfavorable comments on the language (it was dubbed in English). Nobody in the US feels like reading subtitles, especially in an action film. I care about making this film a lot, and for many reasons and I can tell you honestly that if showing an interesting, Polish story and making a western viewer interested in the Warsaw Uprising would require talking in Chinese, then I’m all for it.

Tell us a little about how you work. Are there any techniques you prefer, what aspects are the most important for you, what difficulties may an illustrator face when working on a film?

I prepare my sketches on a tablet and I chew lots of nicotine gum. That’s my whole technique, I guess. If the time is running fast you are sometimes forced to put a photo into a background instead of painting something. There’s no magic – almost:) The designs for Hardkor were created during the last stages of works on The Kinematograph so we had to work quite fast. Intense work hasn’t really started, yet, but time will be its biggest enemy. There are hundreds or maybe even thousands of details to be prepared for 3D modeling, a lot of visualizations for the director and the writers. I just can’t wait to draw all this.

Have you got any favorite animators? Any particular animation made an impression on you lately?

All Pixar movies make me cry, my favorite illustrators are master Juanjo Guarnido and Juan Gimenez. An animated film that brought me to my knees recently, because of its looks and charming simplicity, was „Gary” (directed by Clément Soulmagnon). Suprisingly, it’s not about robots but about immature love:)

Finally, we would like to ask you about your directorial debut, „Teaching Infinity”. It has been issued on DVD in an anthology called ’Polish Shorts 2008’ but let’s face it – it’s still pretty difficult to get. Is it possible to watch it somewhere else? We’ve heard a rumor about a planned anthology of short films made by Platige Image. Can you confirm that?

Something’s supposedly going on In this subject, hehe.

Thank you for the interview.

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