Dudes that Agree with Us: Part 1

Posted by Glen Moyes on Sunday, 8 May, 2011 at 12:50 am

Okay. I actually don’t have any plans on turning this into a series; I just loved that headline.

Over the past two months I’ve felt really good about attending Animation Nation Night. Let me rephrase that: I always feel good about attending Animation Nation Night, but these past two months have made me feel particularly smug good because two months in a row the guest speaker said that writing the script first before doing anything visual is the best way to go. The two guest speakers in question are Peter Chung (creator/director for ├ćon Flux and director for Firebreather) and Max Howard (producer/executive for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Space Jam, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit to name a few).

So what exactly did they say that made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside?

Peter Chung: March 29, 2011

“I believe in writing everything out in script form before you do anything visual, and I see time and time again with a lot of animators who make the mistake of wanting to draw and storyboard without a finished script.”

When he said that I actually started to clap out loud.

“Right before this I worked on Astro Boy as the storyboard artist, and that was a case where–and you probably know that it was a troubled production–but they were literally writing their own scenes and their own dialog because there was no script. Of course it was going to be a disaster, and it was.”

Max Howard: April 26, 2011

Max brought this point up previously during the evening (when talking about how Brad Bird worked on the Iron Giant, which saved a lot of money during production), but he recapped it again during a question and answer session which I quoted below. The question was about how to keep the animation of a film within our borders (i.e. not outsourcing) and still making it be economically feasible.

“I think the great economies in reducing budgets are about how the pipeline is organized and how the decision making is organized, and how you are not trying to rewrite the movie while you are making the movie. That’s the big secret, and the secrets to keeping production here [in the U.S.] would be to celebrate those restrictions. In fact I don’t see them as restrictions. I see them as: get a script you like, do an animatic based on the script, make the animatic, and leave a single voice [director] making the film.”

He then goes on to talk about how in a studio environment there’s never a problem about people’s productivity. The problems are in making sure that when people do come into the studio that they actually have something to do when they are there. Otherwise they come in on Monday, have nothing to do so you have to pay them to come in on Saturday. “5 days work. 6 days pay.” So studios outsource work because they can continue with the same bad behavior but do it cheaper, and that’s not the answer either

“Live action…can shoot as much as they want and cut it together, but essentially it is very hard to be writing the script when you are shooting because it’s moving so quickly. You can’t really stop and start rewriting it, but somehow in animation because we go so slowly we think that we can rewrite it as we go. We change the rhythm, we collapse the structure, we are designing new props and new sequences until we finish the movie. And of course what we are not doing is delivering a top-quality film: we are delivering a very expensive film.”

Amen, brother.

So needless to say that hearing that two AN Nights in a row made me feel really good about our own production schedule for Hackberry Hollow, spending a couple years fleshing out the story for a full-length comic book series before much artwork gets done. It’s nice hearing accomplished artists and producers reinforce your ideologies.

1 Comment to Dudes that Agree with Us: Part 1

  1. avatar

    Joe Eagar says:

    August 13th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I completely agree. Western animators make this mistake all the time; I like how Japanese animation studios often seem more story-oriented.

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