Friday, September 29, 2006
As some of you know Curious George was my last project. It is my last time animating on a feature . I have been animating since 1979 and as 2D was being battered by bad choices and bad timing I decided years ago that I had maybe one more film in me , but that was it . Animating is incredibly time consuming and supervising is more than that. We went in with our eyes open though. The film was in the process for 16 or more years before we even set our eyes on it which, is not good. Managements changed , what seemed like hundreds of writers trundled through and even we lost our beloved director Jun in what seemed to be a 2 year battle.
In the end we lost the war to keep it in North America , they had spent so much on scripts and our time had run out ( they had absolute production dates linked to marketing contracts they would have been penalized for ) so we lost the entire crew at Universal (some went to Mikes outside the union border to be paid non Union wages ) all of the LA cleanup was sent to Asia. That meant that everything we had done would be put through a process of disassembly so that it could be churned out by a system that produces the most base and mediocre of animation. What we got back was devoid of the original ruff inbetweens, they threw away our lipsync (probably couldn't understand a non ABCDEF mouth system , I envied Tony's George team, ha, no lip sync ) and put in inbetweens that were only called inbetweens because they fell somewhere relatively between the major keys.
Our new director Matt told me near the end not to look at the animation coming in , it would only make me angry. I admit, I looked and it did but ..... I didn't worry about it. I realized that the story worked ( thank god for Matt , Darrell head of story and Ken the writer ) and there was nothing to be done. I didn't go to the premiere but that was because I wanted to put off any upset I might feel. Normally a film in animation production takes a year and a half but we only had seven months. We fixed what animation we could under the table even though we were told not to. Strangely enough our management knew ( Bonne and Mary Alice were and are the best and every cutback was as much a blow to them ) . The Imagine/Universal management themselves came in and , knowing we were hurting , asked point blank how much more they could hurt us. It wasn't really a question, it was a statement of what was coming and we all knew it.
Our American outsources like Fat Cat , Firefly , Yowza , Mikes July Films, the guys in France and James Baxter did the best they could under ridiculous conditions and really , as uneven as it may seem , without them it would have been probably the ugliest animation ever produced . Our strengths were the art director Yarrow Cheney (who is just awesome) , the designers Shannon and Shane , our producers Bonne + Mary Alice and our final director Matt (who will tell you the basic story was there but , I know and he did a hell of a job). Tony , Jeff Franz , Steve and John the leads were great to work with and that really is all animation is about. I know I should feel bad because it lacked perfection , it has a million different Ted's but , I actually have gotten over all that and can just enjoy it now. It was a great film to end on that way and I have no regrets. I probably like it more because no matter what we had done it was going to happen the way it did.