The View From the Top: 2013 Edition
How does it feel to have been responsible for some of the best animated movies of the year? Some of 2013’s big-shot directors give us their inspiring responses.
Writer/director, Free Birds Key moment of inspiration: I think the real moment of inspiration, outside of having such a strong premise to work with, was unlocking the relationship between Reggie and Jake. Really figuring out the rules to the relationship that would drive the comedy and, most importantly, drive the emotional resonance behind their friendship, was key for us. Toughest challenge of the movie: I think the toughest part of making this movie was to try and tell a vast story with all these different landscapes and locations and characters and do it with as great a scope as possible with less money. Not having a $100 million to spend meant we had to really choose where we spent our money. I wanted battle scenes, I wanted great scope, I wanted all those things, while telling a story in modern times, in 1621 and in the depths of the space/time continuum. I had all these different landscapes that I needed to get across and I think it was just really a matter of managing our money to tell the greatest story we possibly could. Fave animated movie or character of all time: That’s two movies. I think my first animated and favorite movie of all time is probably The Jungle Book. Watching this movie as a child, I was impressed by the absolutely incredible performances and the lengths the animators could go with the characters in terms of acting. I think Shere Khan and Kaa are two of my favorite characters of all time. They represent such inventive ways in which the animators utilized the characters’ physical traits to express their personalities and take acting to such amazing heights.
My other favorite animated movie is Toy Story, not only because it was the first one I ever worked on, but because I got to work with John Lasseter and Pete Docter and all those amazing guys at Pixar. I got a chance to touch some of these incredible characters that I had no idea at the time would become so indelible. And, as a learning experience, that was the most incredible animated movie to be a part of because I got to be around all of these incredible people as a young fella and learn from them, not to mention seeing a new medium and how we could take acting to new levels. So… inspirationally: The Jungle Book; but from a learning standpoint: Toy Story. On the state of animated features: In terms of the state of the anima- tion business right now and going forward, I think on one hand it’s a bummer because there’s less money to make fewer films, but on the other hand, I think that technology’s become accessible to a vast number of new artist’s so that there’s a great variety of different types of movies being made. I think the future is really exciting because, obviously, the old business model is changing and it’s going to be exciting to see who gets to make what films in the future. Career beginnings: I got into animation at a very young age and I was very inspired by Warner Bros. cartoons and Star Wars and all that stuff. But it was when I began ex- perimenting on my own with claymation and hand-drawn animation and then later the very early stages of computer animation, that I really realized, personally, the story telling potential of the medium and fell in love with it and subsequently spent the next 20 years of my life both studying it and doing it. As an amateur and later as a professional and getting to animate at Pixar and then getting to make films at Blue Sky and now Reel FX. I’ve been into it for a very long time and I find it an amazing and very inspiring medium. Best advice: As far as the filmmaking advice, I think there are two things we could say there. First of all, as Bette Davis once said, “If you’re in L.A., always take Fountain.” But, I think Joe Ranft teaching us when pitching: “Minutiae, minutiae, minutiae, get to the point. Get to what really matters. That’s what the audience cares about.” I think that was great. I think the other piece of advice I heard once was, “Be careful of someone forcing you to make permanent decisions that’s sitting in a temporary chair.” I think that’s a great one, too!