Animated Charmer ‘The Originals’ Dials Clock Back to ‘70s Brooklyn –

If you grew up in a certain part of Brooklyn in the ’70s and played a game called Hot Peas and Butter with the neighborhood kids, you’ll still have the wallets to show for it.

As an Oscar-contending animated short Original Turns out the old-time outdoor game involved the “winner” beating other kids with a belt.


“Most of our games came with pain,” one of the characters in the true story recalls with particular fondness. The film’s audio comes from the memories of a group of friends who have known each other “since we were babies” in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn: Matteo Ruggiero, Carmen Ruggiero, Anthony DeMaio, Sal Alioto and Matteo Alioto. The short was directed by Cristina Costantini and Alfie Quitter, a young couple who lived in a Carroll Gardens building owned by Matty “Squire” Ruggiero.

“We got to know our landlord the day he got back from prison,” Costantini said at a recent Q&A for the film at XTR Studios in Los Angeles. “We were captivated [Matty] And the stories he would tell us. He was one of the best storytellers we ever met. He just made us laugh every day as we sat on that stoop with him and told these incredible stories. And we wanted to know how we could achieve that and how we could bring them to life.

XTR/Mic Media/Two Beans

When the pandemic struck, Costantini, a filmmaker known for Mucho Mucho Amor And Scientific fair, and her husband Alfie, an architect, decided to “combine their strengths and their weaknesses” to convert the audio into a short. Title Original Matty Squire and his friends call themselves back in the 1970s their Italian-American enclave.


“One of the hardest things to overcome was that there was no archival footage to back up any of Matty’s stories. And as Christina said, Matty is a great storyteller prone to exaggeration,” ” Coeter said. “And even if we had footage of the times in his life that he was telling us about, I don’t think they could live up to the way he told the stories. And so animation and model building gave us an opportunity to stretch the truth, to change the proportions and make things look better than they really are in a way that I think, in the past, was the only way to respect the ways that He and his friends told stories.


The film opens with Christina and Alfie building a model of the road where they live in Carroll Gardens, which is realistic down to the bits of grass growing in the cracks of the pavement. Then the animated story itself unfolds, with the boys talking about how things used to be.

Mothers and grandmothers on the road in the animated film 'The Originals'


XTR/Mic Media/Two Beans

“Imagine a whole block where 75-80 percent of the kids speak Italian,” one of them said, describing a kind of communal life where everyone knew each other. “It was an open concept where in the evening mothers and grandmothers would take their chairs and sit outside while we played in the street,” says another. “It was tough.”


He remembers the endless games they played outside — stoop ball, crack top, rangoli, Old Mother Witch, slap ball and something called scalises. And, of course, hot peas and butter.

“Alfie drew every single frame himself,” Costantini told of the visuals. He also did character and set design and art direction, with Alex Booth serving as animation director and Jason Kirchner credited with additional animation. Costantini wrote the film. The film is produced by XTR, Mick Media, Two Beans, Test Pattern Media and Shy Kids.

'The Originals' poster

XTR/Mic Media/Two Beans

Original Full of humor—one boy notes of his group, “We basically look the same but in different guises.” “I’ve got a fat gene,” jokes the barrel-shaped Matteo Alioto. Beneath the surface, for viewers who want to go there, it’s also a social exploration of a time and way of life that has disappeared. Matty Squire breaks out of prison to find the old neighborhood “dramatically changed.” Now, natives say, Carroll Gardens is populated by yuppies who don’t recognize each other on the street.

“I don’t know who lives on my block,” Matty says, “except my next-door neighbors. But other than that, I don’t know those people.


There is a certain amount of nostalgia behind their reflections, but the men also acknowledge that many of the neighborhood’s children turned to a life of crime during the day, especially those who stayed indoors to study. Instead, they used to hang in the streets.

“The neighborhood was good — it was good in one way, but I look back and I’d say it was bad in other ways,” Matty Squire says. “There were a lot of m*rders in the neighborhood, a lot of m*rders… but those were the days.” Organized crime sucked in many kids, many of whom wound up spending time behind bars.


The Originals wishes that, somehow, the neighborhood could return to something like this (the good parts anyway), where everyone knows each other and hangs out in that communal way. Being around the boys influenced Koetter, who grew up in Boston, and Costantini, who hails from Milwaukee, and how they view social relationships.

“I wasn’t brought up with an understanding of being a neighbor,” Quitter admits, describing Boston as “a hot spring of belief in witchcraft and that your neighbors can be up to no good…before you say hello.” I was nervous, but in Matty’s way. I understood the importance of not just saying hello to my neighbor, but of building community and understanding that community is not just about the people who have always been there, but the people who Ready to participate and ready to engage.”

Costantini says her husband has turned over a new leaf after seeing the example of Matty and the Originals.

“Alfie has changed a lot since I first met her,” she said. “Now he walks around — I don’t think he’s running for mayor of anything in particular — he says hello to everybody.”

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