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'Open Season' Diary: 'Open Season' and its Directors

In the third Open Season production diary, Sony Pictures Animation chronicles how directors Jill Culton, Roger Allers and co-director Anthony Stacchi transformed Steve Moores comic strip into an animated feature.

Open Season is the first homegrown animated feature out of Sony Pictures Animation. All images © Sony Pictures Ent.

Open Season is the first homegrown animated feature out of Sony Pictures Animation. All images © Sony Pictures Ent.

From the AWN/VFXWorld Exclusive Open Season Diaries.

May 2002. Sony Pictures Animation was barely a month old. Executives Sandra Rabins and Penney Finkelman Cox (evps of Sony Animation) and Yair Landau, president, Sony Pictures Digital Ent., were eager to start work on their first feature film.

Fortunately for them, cartoonist Steve Moore and his producing partner, John Carls, had just the project. Moore had been kicking around an idea about a domesticated animal and the what if scenario occurred: what if that domesticated animal were to suddenly be plopped in the wild and had to survive on his own; once dining on leftovers now having to fend for himself.

Syndicated in more than 200 newspapers worldwide, Moores comic strip In the Bleachers takes a what if approach to his humor. He got the idea for Open Season from articles he had collected about the quasi-domesticated animals who would lurk around the outskirts of mountain resort towns in the Northwest and Canada. Those animals would inevitably cause a little mayhem leaving the Park Ranger with no choice: capture the animals and relocate them back into the wild.

Proving that timing is everything, cartoonist Steve Moore (above) and his producing partner, John Carls, walked into the nascent Sony Pictures Animation with panels from Moores In the Bleachers and the story of Boog and Elliot.

Proving that timing is everything, cartoonist Steve Moore (above) and his producing partner, John Carls, walked into the nascent Sony Pictures Animation with panels from Moores In the Bleachers and the story of Boog and Elliot.

Moore saw a great story in the making. Carls agreed. Armed with a stack of panels from In the Bleachers as inspiration, he pitched the story of Boog and Elliot to the Sony team and, at their request, fleshed out a 20-page treatment that served as the backbone for the film. Sony Animation optioned the treatment and doors were open for business.

But who would bring the story of Boog and Elliot to big screen?

Enter directors Jill Culton, Roger Allers and co-director Anthony Stacchi.

Culton makes her directorial debut with Open Season. She brings to Sony Pictures Animation nearly eight years of experience as a conceptual artists and storyteller. Among her credits at Pixar are Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2, A Bugs Life and Toy Story. One of her most beloved creations is that of the character Jessie from Toy Story 2. As character designer on that film, she was responsible for giving Jessie such great heart and soul. Cultons story sensibilities are just as keen her contributions as head of development on Monsters Inc. earned her a place alongside the team credited with the original story of Mike, Sully and the gang. Culton is a graduate of CalArts.

Jill Culton, a Pixar vet and nature lover, makes her directorial debut with Open Season. A natural to helm this film, her only hesitation was relocating from the woods of the San Francisco Bay Area to Culver City, California.

Jill Culton, a Pixar vet and nature lover, makes her directorial debut with Open Season. A natural to helm this film, her only hesitation was relocating from the woods of the San Francisco Bay Area to Culver City, California.

Allers has a place in animation and box-office history with his directorial debut in The Lion King. As everyone knows, The Lion King changed the face of animation and became a word-wide sensation. After wrapping duties on the film, Allers adapted the screenplay of the film for Broadway. The Lion King stage musical earned a Tony Award for Best Musical and earned Allers a Tony nomination for Best Book of Musical.

Among many circles in animation, Allers is widely credited as one of the major creative architects behind the resurgence of animation at Disney. In addition to the The Lion King, Allers received credit as story supervisor on Beauty and the Beast. His other story credits include work on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Oliver and Company.

Open Season marks the directorial debut of co-director Stacchi. With Allers coming from a 2D background and Pixar vet Culton providing a 3D perspective, Stacchis experience in both the 2D and 3D worlds fit seamlessly into the process. His credits include some of the industrys most stylized films, including Antz (where he served as a story artist). Like Culton, Stacchi is a graduate of CalArts, and has been a long-time collaborator and colleague of hers.

The three directors didnt all start at once. Culton was actually the first to be sent the treatment.

A self-described nature lover, Culton seemed a natural to direct the film. Living in the outskirts of San Francisco, out in the woods, a story about woodland creatures, the great outdoors and nature was clearly a project aligned with her sensibilities as a storyteller.

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Director Roger Allers (left) place in the history of animation is already assured with his work on The Lion King. As co-director, Tony Stacchis (right) experience in both the 2D and 3D were tapped, as well as his long-time collaboration with Culton.

Upon receipt of Moores treatment, the story goes that it literally sat on the edge of Cultons coffeetable for about a week. Culton was nervous. She knew that if she read this treatment about a domesticated bear relocated to the wild, she wouldnt be able to resist, and that she too would be relocated to Culver City, California. So she let it sit for a few days...

Fortunately for Sony Pictures Animation, Culton did ultimately read the treatment and quickly found herself making the southbound commute.

Soon after Culton signed on, Stacchi was hired as her co-director, and Roger Allers was brought on board alongside Culton to the direct the film.

The three set out to take the treatment provided by Moore and Carls, and flesh out the world of Boog, Elliot and Timberline. In Boog and Elliot, the filmmakers wanted more than just a buddy-comedy with a clear, obvious lead and sidekick. They all agreed that having two sidekicks in Boog and Elliot would clearly pay off both from a story perspective and audience perspective.

At the essence of the story you have an arc about two characters, finding their place in the world. The trio of directors populated the world of Timberline with wacky characters to serve as foil for Boog and Elliot. Culton actually likens the secondary cast of characters to actually one big character, each with strong, singular personality traits that when combined, make up one single, large character: in McSquizzy you have the protector; Reilly the organizer; Ian the bully; and so on, surrounding Boog and Elliot with a structure and framework to tell a great story.

With a great concept on paper, the team set work on bringing the characters to life in 3D

Various artists at Sony Pictures Animation, who worked on Open Season, have contributed to the writing of this series of production diaries on the making of the film.

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