August | September Planner 24
B:TAS voicers Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester will be at Chicago Comic Con! [wizardworld.com/comiccon/ chicago]
challenging and very exciting to do.”
Reviving the 1980s The movie also leans into a 1980s feeling through classic songs from the era and the introduction of super villain Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker. He’s a former child star from that decade, who fell out of favor when he grew up and no longer kept his cute tween looks. The one thing he did keep? His love of all things ’80s.
“One of the reasons I got into animation was that I was inspired by the A-ha video for the song ‘Take On Me,’ which was groundbreaking at the time,” says director Kyle Balda, who is gearing up for production on Minions 2. “So working with all the terrible fashion from the ’80s and the other things that are just so naturally funny was great for everyone who remembers that era. And even for people who weren’t there, these things — the dancing, the fashion and music — are pretty funny.” Soret agrees. “For the aspect of the ’80s character (for Balthazar Bratt), his outfit is helping a lot for us to find poses and attitudes. But when it came into the animation process, we wanted to give him really an ’80s kind of movement,” writes Soret. “And how can you differentiate someone moving in 1982 and somebody moving in 2017? By the way they are dancing! As a lot of people in the animation team were born in the ‘80s, we just had to (rewatch) all the video
the 2D space of a text message, giving them the kind of depth and roundness that turns them into movie stars made for complex design and tech challenges. Roughly 280 characters live in Textopolis, each one of them with their own unique look that had never been translated to film. Rounding Out Characters “We couldn’t make them look like humans with a giant Styrofoam ball for a head,” says Leondis. “They needed to have arms and legs and move, so we did a lot of tests so they didn’t look like the Jack in the Box guy.”
Visual-effects supervisor Dave Smith lead a team spread out between Vancouver and Los Angeles to make believable, relatable characters using tools like WireCore to cut rigging processing time from 15 to 35 days down to one to two days. He also used a new shading
“Developing the apps was the most fun, developing the visualization of a concept,” says Leondis. “Spotify streaming music just evokes so many metaphors and the idea of streams of music and the characters being on those streams just came right away.”
There are also visual references to classic films like Casablanca, Life of Pi and 2001: A Space Odyssey that Leondis thinks will work for both younger and older audiences.
“There’s no reason to dumb down a film for kids,” says Leondis. “The grownups will get it and the kids — if they don’t get it now, they will later, and maybe they’ll ask about it and want to see the films.”
Planet of the Apps With so many apps out there, the film is careful to focus on just a few, rather than get lost among them as many of us do on our phones each and every day. Leondis, Kouyate and the other filmmakers selected the apps for their story potential. Each one helps the characters grow or take another step on their journey. Gene finds out being expressive — being able to make more than just the one face he’s supposed to show — makes him a natural in the Just Dance app.
In addition to all the pop cultural touchstones, the film boasts impressive voice talent. Hi-5 is played by James Corden, Maya Rudolph voiced Smiler, Anna Faris is Jailbreak, Sofia Vergara is the voice of Flamenca and Sir Patrick Stewart is Poop.
“The idea was how do we do poop without doing the obvious,” says Kouyate. “If we didn’t have it in the movie it would be like there was something missing because it’s a very popular emoji. So we wanted an upper crust voice and when we went out to Sir Patrick Stewart he got the joke immediately.”
For Leondis, who initially wanted to be a Greek Orthodox priest but left to follow a path in animation, the ultimate goal was to make a movie about more than characters who each had just one face to share with an audience.
“I grew up on animated films that were about something, there was something to say,” says Leondis. “This movie is about upsetting the status quo when you find out you’re more or different than you expected and finding out that’s okay and that it’s even great.” [ Karen Idelson lives and works in the South Bay. She’ll text you later.
Kobe, everybody knows. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever animated.”
An Impressed Subject Although Bryant had seen himself on film countless times, he was surprised when saw the finished animation. “It was kind of surreal: It’s one thing to have a vision in your mind of creating a film, it’s another entirely to see the finished product,” he says. “I had to pinch myself: I’m sitting in a theater watching a piece that I wrote that’s been animated by Glen Keane and scored by John Williams. Where did this happen?”
There are numerous anime sports series — Prince of Tennis, Slam Dunk (basketball), Free: Eternal Summer (swimming), Princess Nine and Big Windup! (baseball) — but American sports-themed cartoons have generally been slapstick comedies like How to Play Golf and Baseball Bugs. Bryant and Keane agree that athletics offers animators exciting opportunities.
“I believe there’s so much we can do in animation, particularly with sports,” says Bryant. “This film was a good opportunity to move a viewer through three acts, all centered around sport. There wasn’t anything added to elevate the drama, which many people think is needed for a sports film. We wanted to show we can create a sense of emotional connection through a piece that’s centered completely around the sport itself.”
“The problem with watching sports on TV is nothing has been edited,” Keane says. “You aren’t being directed to appreciate the line of action of somebody’s body as they’re pushing themselves through the air or the arc of a hand throwing a ball. You can direct the viewer’s eye with animation. I believe you’ll appreciate Kobe Bryant even more watching him animated: There’s something revealed that’s coming from inside of him. Animation can highlight that in ways nothing else can.” [