Rovio’s Maiden Flight Fin­nish game de­vel­oper pecks out a space in the an­i­mated fea­ture mar­ket with The An­gry Birds Movie. By Karen Idel­son.

Animation Magazine - - Features -

As a wildly pop­u­lar game, An­gry Birds was one of the few prop­er­ties that en­joyed the kind of aware­ness and ex­cite­ment that just couldn’t re­ally be topped. The An­gry Birds games have been down­loaded 3 bil­lion times as of July 2015. The char­ac­ters, lev­els and worlds cre­ated by the game de­sign­ers quickly emerged as pop-cul­ture touch­stones, so it’s only nat­u­ral Rovio and the pro­duc­ers of the big-screen take on the game wanted to stay true to the de­signs that cap­ti­vated au­di­ences on tiny, hand-held screens through­out the gam­ing uni­verse.

Be­fore bring­ing on the crew, pro­duc­ers David Maisel, Catherine Win­der and John Co­hen took the time to de­velop a story with screen­writer John Vitti that gives au­di­ences real char­ac­ters and some­thing more, be­cause just know­ing the birds from the game wouldn’t be enough to carry a whole movie.

“The birds had to have heart and be re­lat­able for kids and adults,” says Co­hen. “We also had to show why the birds are an­gry, be­cause that’s a ques­tion that de­mands an an­swer.”

In Red’s case, we get into his back-story and dis­cover that, though our main char­ac­ter lives as part of a huge com­mu­nity of fel­low birds, he lives alone and has been a loner for a long time. And that wasn’t al­ways Red’s choice. We of­ten see Red gaz­ing through win­dows into the lives of other birds that live in the same vil­lage and long­ing to be part of what­ever they’re do­ing.

es from the last few years — the slow-mo­tion kitchen scene in X-Men: Days of Fu­ture Past, in which Quick­sil­ver uses his su­per speed to set a group of other char­ac­ters up for a chain re­ac­tion catas­tro­phe — is adapted so that Chuck is able to pull off the same kind of thing with his su­per speed once in­side a cas­tle be­long­ing to the pig­gies, who try to steal eggs from the hero birds.

“That was a lot of fun, to make that part of this movie. And the birds are heroic,” Reilly says. “They go from be­ing naive and be­ing able to be taken ad­van­tage of to a place where they learn they can de­fend them­selves and they need Red’s abil­ity to get an­gry about in­jus­tice.”

There are ad­di­tional movie ref­er­ences sprin­kled through­out as well. One es­pe­cially un­nerv­ing mo­ment finds our he­roes face to face with a pair of young fe­male pig­gies who look like the strange lit­tle girls from The Shin­ing. faces and made to look more ridicu­lous than truly evil. And their is­land is pop­u­lated with the kind of im­pos­si­ble, col­lapsi­ble struc­tures that you’d ex­pect them to cre­ate, de­stroy and then just build again in their own clumsy way. Ac­cord­ing to Kaytis, de­stroy­ing their is­land when the birds fight back af­ter an egg theft was es­pe­cially fun be­cause of all the chore­og­ra­phy in­volved in mak­ing it a real spec­ta­cle for the au­di­ence. The build­ings are so tall and close to­gether, they come down like domi­noes with pan­icked pigs Danny McBride voices Bomb and is one of many comics whose voices are heard in An­gry Birds. scat­ter­ing ev­ery­where.

With the strong pri­mary col­ors and large eyes and invit­ing faces, the birds and pigs would be likely to draw in a younger au­di­ence or those who were ded­i­cated to the games. But that wasn’t enough.

were try­ing to keep the fun but work up the stakes so that ev­ery­thing felt like it re­ally had mean­ing.”

The char­ac­ters are given a larger role and more depth than the orig­i­nal, dis­cov­er­ing the ex­is­tence of Voltron as the au­di­ence does — with a healthy dose of hu­mor thrown in.

“The whole idea that there are five gi­ant ro­bot lions who form a gi­ant ro­bot guy doesn’t re­ally lend it­self to some­thing that’s su­per se­ri­ous and su­per in­tense,” says Mont­gomery. “If you put that in a hy­per-re­al­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment, it’s go­ing to stick out like a sore thumb.”

Most of the crew on Voltron came over from Korra, bring­ing a sim­i­lar anime-in­flu­enced 2D style to the show.

“We could have pos­si­bly made this into a CG show, but the orig­i­nal Voltron we love was 2D,” says Mont­gomery. “Our hearts have al­ways been more on the 2D side of an­i­ma­tion than the CG side, and even when we do CG, we find our­selves drawn to things that look a lit­tle more 2D in­spired.”

Though Dos San­tos is well known in the in­dus­try as a mas­ter of bat­tle chore­og­ra­phy, he re­lies on the crew to chore­o­graph Voltron’s space bat­tles.

“It is a very dif­fer­ent thing,” says Dos San­tos. “We’ve got a crew of di­rec­tors and sto­ry­board artists here that, hon­estly, there’s times I’m scratch­ing my head at the things that they do, be­cause they bring such amaz­ing stag­ing to these space bat­tles.”

An­other con­stant from Korra is the pro­duc­tion part­ner­ship with Stu­dio Mir in Seoul, South Korea. Mont­gomery and Dos San­tos de­scribe the re­la­tion­ship as seam­less, with Mir artists con­tribut­ing to pre­pro­duc­tion as well as an­i­ma­tion.

“We know the artists in­cred­i­bly well,” says Dos San­tos. “It’s not your typ­i­cal work-for-hire out­source stu­dio sit­u­a­tion.”

The first sea­son will have an over­all arc, says Mont­gomery. “We try to have a story that car­ries through­out the episodes and has ram­i­fi­ca­tions that ul­ti­mately play out through the episodes.”

“And the cool thing is you know how many episodes you have up front, so you’re able to set things up in a cer­tain way that you were not able to in tra­di­tional me­dia in the sense that you could start sto­ry­lines that you knew were go­ing to pay off in episode 12,” says Dos San­tos. [

An es­sen­tial guide to get­ting the most out of the 31st edi­tion of the Annecy In­ter­na­tional An­i­ma­tion Film Fes­ti­val and MIFA.

As Cannes is to live ac­tion, Annecy is to an­i­ma­tion — a fes­ti­val based in a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion in France that el­e­gantly and ar­tis­ti­cally cel­e­brates the very best the medium has to of­fer.

That Annecy takes an­i­ma­tion se­ri­ously has never been more clear. The fea­tures in com­pe­ti­tion show an artis­tic reach in both in­ten­tion and ex­e­cu­tion that is light-years be­yond a sur­face glance at the medium’s most ob­vi­ous and high-pro­file ex­am­ples. The shorts pro­gram, too, goes deep and is sure to of­fer un­ex­pected re­wards to those who dive in.

Annecy is in­creas­ingly a must-at­tend for pro­fes­sion­als, whether it’s for de­lights like a mas­ter­class with Guillermo del Toro, the riches of MIFA, the first-looks at high-pro­file stu­dio projects or to see the best an­i­ma­tion be­ing pro­duced in the world all in one spot.

Whether you’re head­ing to the event it­self, or fol­low­ing along on­line at An­i­ma­tion­, what fol­lows is the must-know, es­sen­tial guide to this year’s edi­tion of this de­fin­i­tive world an­i­ma­tion event. New Zealand — Leanne Poo­ley

25 April re-tells the story of the Gal­lipoli Cam­paign from the point of view of a nurse and five sol­diers that served in the cam­paign. It is pre­sented as a doc­u­men­tary, with in­ter­views based upon the di­aries and letters of the real char­ac­ters.

“From the first mo­ment we set out to make the film it was a goal to have the film in com­pe­ti­tion in Annecy,” says pro­ducer Matthew Met­calfe. “We have re­ceived of­fers of Os­car qual­i­fy­ing sup­port for the film, so we hope that play­ing at Annecy will add to that pos­si­bil­ity. We also hope that the fes­ti­val helps more peo­ple to see the film and en­joy its mov­ing and em­pow­er­ing nar­ra­tive.” Canada — Jean-François Pouliot, François Bris­son

This an­i­mated re­make of a Que­bec clas­sic was an in­stant hit when it was re­leased last year in Canada. Telling the tale of ri­val groups

of chil­dren who stage the ul­ti­mate snow­ball fight, it sub­se­quently played at Sun­dance and was re­leased in English in both Canada and the United States. The story be­hind the mak­ing of the movie was spot­lighted in An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine #258. France — Sébastien Lau­den­bach

The fea­ture de­but of well-known shorts-maker Sébastien Lau­den­bach, who an­i­mated the en­tire film him­self as an adap­ta­tion of a Broth­ers Grimm tale. Pro­ducer Jean-Christophe Soula­geon says the project has been in the works for Lau­den­bach since 2001, but it was three years ago the film­maker de­cided to make it him­self. “He was do­ing alone the work of an en­tire team of an­i­ma­tors, and as we al­ready were work­ing on an art­work project, we de­cided to do it to­gether,” says Soula­geon. Made for a mod­est 380,000 eu­ros, the movie is be­ing rep­re­sented by Pyra­mide for in­ter­na­tional sales while GKIDS has picked it up for North Amer­ica, he says. France, Switzer­land — Claude Bar­ras

The ac­claimed shorts di­rec­tor adapts the French novel Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of a Cour­gette in stop-mo­tion with results that wowed crit­ics when it screened at Cannes. The movie fol­lows a boy who ends up in an or­phan­age for mis­fits and gets into some in­ti­mate ter­ri­tory likely to tease tears from even the most jaded adult view­ers. USA — Penny Lane

An­other Sun­dance hit, Nuts! is an an­i­mated doc­u­men­tary about a Kan­sas doc­tor who, in 1917, claimed that he could cure im­po­tence by trans­plant­ing goat tes­ti­cles into men. And that was only the first step in this famed con-man’s tale. “I be­lieve that more than any other sin­gle hu­man qual­ity, it is our love of great sto­ries that makes us so end­lessly sus­cep­ti­ble to be­ing conned,” says Lane on her web­site.

“We be­lieve the sto­ries we want or need to be­lieve, and we be­lieve any­one who tells them to us. Con men know this.”

(France) Di­rec­tor: Mélanie (Aus­tralia) Direc-

TBreak­through em­barks on a new kids’ con­tent ad­ven­ture with Mar­garet At­wood and By Tom McLean & Mercedes Mil­li­gan.

oronto-based pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion house Break­through En­ter­tain­ment, now in its 31st year, has un­der­gone much growth and evo­lu­tion in the last three decades. From its first se­ries, a live-ac­tion and pup­petry show called The Ad­ven­tures of Dud­ley the Dragon, to its first fully-an­i­mated hit, Atomic Betty (pro­duced with Atomic Car­toons), and into its high-pro­file dips into prime­time an­i­ma­tion with Pro­duc­ing Parker and Mother Up, Break­through has con­sis­tently ven­tured into new cor­ners of the mar­ket.

The stu­dio’s an­i­ma­tion cat­a­log in­cludes in­ter­na­tional hits My Big Big Friend (with 2D Lab in Brazil), Josh Selig’s hy­brid se­ries The Ad­ven­tures of Nap­kin Man (Lit­tle Tug­boat), Rocket Mon­keys (Atomic Car­toons), Crash Canyon, Cap­tain Flamingo and more. These will soon be joined by Break­through’s lat­est pro­duc­tion, Wan­der­ing Wenda for CBC in Canada.

The project came about when a friend of ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Joan Lam­bur and Ira Levy in­tro­duced them to best­selling author Mar­garet At­wood, and they got ex­cited about her kids’ book Wan­der­ing Wenda: And Widow Wal­lop’s Wun­der­ground Wash­ery. At­wood ex­plained she wanted to en­gage young kids and par­ents with the English lan­guage through word play and fan­ci­ful sto­ries. Break­through took the author in to pitch the show to CBC, who de­cided on a se­ries of 26 eight-minute episodes, one for each let­ter of the al­pha­bet.

“Mar­garet At­wood was very in­volved in the process at the start, but once she was com­fort­able with the di­rec­tion she let Break­through take con­trol,” Levy says via email. “She loved cre­atively what they were do­ing. They show her scripts and draw­ings for in­put, but she is on board with the team and where they are tak­ing the se­ries.”

Slated for de­liv­ery in April 2017, Wan­der­ing Wenda will trans­port young view­ers into a world of ac­tion, ad­ven­ture and al­lit­er­a­tion with Wenda and her best friends Wu and Wes­ley Wood­chuck. When Wenda in­evitably finds her­self in the mid­dle of may­hem, she uses her words, chang­ing them to adapt the world around her to es­cape sticky sit­u­a­tions.

Levy shares that the writ­ing stage is al­most com­pleted, with ex­ec­u­tive story editor Alan Gregg head­ing a six-per­son team in Toronto. A part live-ac­tion open­ing se­quence with At­wood has been shot, the se­ries has been cast and Wenda has be­gun voice record­ing and sto­ry­board­ing episodes. Break­through is work­ing with Ottawa’s PIP An­i­ma­tion, where di­rec­tor Steve Nielsen and a 50-plus per­son team are han­dling de­sign, color, lay­outs, builds and an­i­ma­tion. Ja­son Ho­p­ley serves as showrun­ner.

“This is just the lat­est ma­jor de­vel­op­ment with (Break­through’s) on-go­ing com­mit­ment to do­ing great kids pro­grams, work­ing with brands wher­ever pos­si­ble,” says Levy, cit­ing both At­wood’s Wenda and the stu­dio’s adap­ta­tion of L.M. Mont­gomery’s Anne of Green Gables. “An­i­ma­tion is a very im­por­tant part of over­all strat­egy for kids en­ter­tain­ment at Break­through.”

The stu­dio plans to de­but Wan­der­ing Wenda at ei­ther MIP or Kid­screen next year. The stu­dio is lin­ing up pub­lish­ing part­ners and look­ing to­ward a se­lec­tive, in­ter­ac­tive-heavy L&M strat­egy that fur­thers At­wood’s orig­i­nal aim: to en­ter­tain and ed­u­cate. And, Levy prom­ises, Break­through is in de­vel­op­ment on even more new an­i­ma­tion prop­er­ties with Cana­dian and in­ter­na­tional part­ners, so stay tuned. [

Greater stakes and ex­tended sto­ry­lines set the new se­ries apart from the orig­i­nal Voltron.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Lau­ren Mont­gomery and Joaquim Dos San­tos.

The Ad­ven­tures of Nap­kin Man Rocket Mon­keys

Mar­garet At­wood

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