36 Icelandair Stopover BY EYGLÓ SVALA ARNARSDÓTTIR. STILLS COURTESY OF GUNHIL. Released in 2018 to great international success, Ploey – You Never Fly Alone ( Lói – Þú flýgur aldrei einn ) is the second full-length Icelandic animation. Featuring a flightless—and fearless—golden plover chick, left behind by his flock to survive the harsh Icelandic winter on his own, Ploey has touched the hearts of viewers the world over. Colorful Characters “When I read the screenplay, I see the characters before me. I have to put myself in their shoes in order to understand them,” says Gunnar Karlsson of GunHil production, the film’s visual creator and co-director. Ploey is the first feature film by GunHil, but Gunnar and Friðrik Erlingsson, who wrote the story, had previously worked together on Thor – Legends of Valhalla (2011) and an animated short. Having studied visual arts with the aim of dedicating his career to painting, Gunnar now earns his living through animation, artfully breathing life into colorful characters. Ploey and his fellow golden plovers are the stars of the show, but other Icelandic birds also appear, including wacko hermit Giron, a ptarmigan; and preying loner Shadow, a falcon. “I draw from acquaintances and people I’ve met along the way. I base the characters on the bird species but they also have human features. I had to picture myself living in their world—I lived in this landscape with these characters for a few years.” In the film, the birds nest in the idyllic countryside near human habitats. “Friðrik wrote the screenplay in Eyrarbakki [in South Iceland], but it could be a village anywhere in Iceland,” says Gunnar. “It’s based on my childhood in the 1960s and ’70s—it has a bit of a ’70s zeitgeist. The landscape is Nordic with snow and mountains, and we thought it was important to feature the weather in the north.” After witnessing Shadow murder his father, a traumatized Ploey fails to learn to fly in time for his flock’s migration to warmer habitats in the fall. His mother and Ploveria, his girlfriend, believe Ploey to be dead and therefore leave without him. However, the flightless chick is not about to give up and decides to walk across the hostile Highlands in search of Paradise Valley, geothermal fields offering warmth, comfort—and companionship—even during the darkest of hours and fiercest of blizzards. Reaping the Fruits After opening in Iceland last February, Ploey was screened continuously for 26 weeks, attracting more than 25,000 people to the theater. Gunnar finds it important that children grow up watching the world they’re familiar with in movies, not only foreign cultures. But Ploey’s story appeals to a broader audience, too. “When we screened the film in India, the Icelandic animation has taken off. MAKING THE FEATHERS FLY Gunnar Karlsson. Photo by Ólöf Nordal.