Ask a Ba­boon

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion’s new­est shin­ing star, the ac­com­plished Su­san Kim, has writ­ten for more than three dozen chil­dren’s TV se­ries, in­clud­ing PBS’s ru­n­away hit Peg+Cat, Scholas­tic- Sprout’s brand new Astrob­last!, Won­der Pets!, Arthur, Martha Speaks!, Handy Manny, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Speed Racer and Po­coyo to name a few. She has been nom­i­nated for an Emmy and Writ­ers Guild Awards four times. Lisa Gold­man caught up with her at the Ba­boon stu­dio in New York for a tête-á-tête on writ­ing.

To Reeve’s amaze­ment, Fox was will­ing to change course. “I wanted to do some­thing that was to­tally Cae­sar-cen­tric,” says Reeves, who pre­vi­ously di­rected the monster movie Clover­field. “And I wanted to go up into the Muir see­ing and the frus­tra­tion he felt was not be­ing able to speak yet. I didn’t want to lose that sense of com­ing into be­ing for Cae­sar.

“Not only that, but I wanted to ex­plore that mo­ment when it could have been planet of the hu­mans and apes. We know where it goes, but how did it hap­pen? We also know the deep con­nec­tion that Cae­sar has with hu­man be­ings. So he’s torn. I also thought that the story in Rise was so com­pact and propul­sive from his char­ac­ter’s point of view. He be­comes this rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but what was it like to cre­ate this civ­i­liza­tion and to have larger re­spon­si­bil­i­ties? I kept think­ing of it like The God­fa­ther with apes. He was a leader but he was also a fa­ther. Sud­denly, the de­ci­sions are not so easy be­cause the stakes are so much higher. Whether or not the hu­mans and apes can co-ex­ist be­comes the story and we live on the knife’s edge.”

A Nat­u­ral­is­tic Ap­proach

How­ever, Reeves had a more nat­u­ral­is­tic aes­thetic in mind for Dawn, which hit the­aters July 11 from Fox. Aside from the fan­tas­ti­cal con­ceit of in­tel­li­gent apes, he wanted it to ap­pear very real­is­tic. But in or­der to push the photo-re­al­ity, Weta Dig­i­tal had to make cer­tain ad­just­ments to its per­for­mance cap­ture method­ol­ogy.

“My pitch to Fox was: What if we were to

do a whole movie on lo­ca­tion in real light­ing? It turns out that Weta had been think­ing about that method­ol­ogy as well and be­lieved the apes could hold up to that photo-real stan­dard,” Reeves says.

The di­rec­tor re­calls a “crazy” lab shot in Rise that fea­tured top flu­o­res­cent light­ing. He was im­pressed with how well the mod­els held up in that real­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment, and was very en­cour­aged go­ing into Dawn about achiev­ing even greater de­tail.

Get­ting the Subtlety

Nat­u­rally, he was also blown away by Serkis’ per­for­mance as Cae­sar, and wanted to see ev­ery­thing that Serkis did on set with the mark­ers on his face side by side with Cae­sar to an­a­lyze the per­for­mance. It per­suaded Reeves that they could im­prove the sub­tle de­tails in the face and push a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity that was only hinted at in Rise.

“We spend a lot of time on an­i­ma­tion and you don’t see a ren­der for a long, long time,” Reeves says. “And so when I see the an­i­ma­tion, I want to know if his eyes are as an­gry as Andy’s. But at the same time, he’s also sad and that comes from the red­ness on his lips, and we won’t see that un­til the ren­der. So we sit there chas­ing the shapes that we see, but the de­tail that you would see in his eyes when the ren­der comes through was in­cred­i­ble.

“De­spite the fact that there are all of these anatom­i­cal dif­fer­ences, the de­tails that they have cho­sen are so spe­cific to Andy and to Toby Kebbell (who plays Koba), that I can’t see any­thing other than those two ac­tors. But here’s the thing: the an­i­ma­tion would mat­ter a lot less if what we were try­ing to do was recre­ate Andy as Andy. And then they could just use the mo­tion cap­ture and what­ever flaws there are in the tech­nol­ogy would be the lim­its. But what they’re do­ing is es­sen­tially in­ter­pret­ing a per­for­mance, which is com­plete artistry. There is no Cae­sar with­out Andy and there is no Cae­sar with­out Weta.

“And I think there’s con­fu­sion on both sides. There are people that don’t un­der­stand how great an ac­tor Andy is, and there are other people on the other side who have no idea what amaz­ing an­i­ma­tors the people at Weta are. They never stop push­ing. It takes so many lev­els of trans­la­tion and per­for­mance and com­mit­ment to achieve such re­al­ism.” Bill De­sowitz is owner of Im­mersed in Movies (www.billdes­owitz.com), au­thor of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­masked.com) and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Thomp­son on Hol­ly­wood and An­i­ma­tion Scoop at Indiewire.

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