The Oscars: Gracia Talks The Lady and the Reaper
JRG: There were technical challenges that came up because it was a trial to for our rendering of hair and also cloth and textures. But we found solutions to all of those issues as they were coming up. So the team was completely new to it so there were the challenges basically of being pioneers here and learning on our own.
BD: What animation software did you use?
JRG: I storyboarded the whole film and I made an animatic, so it was good I was able to take two months off to essentially draw the whole film and essentially see how it flowed in movement and how it all was working in transitions and so forth.
BD: And working on the characters and backgrounds?
JRG: I would draw the basic idea for all of the characters, and Oscar Vargas would do the final design because I didn't have time to do them all on my own. Another colleague from the art department, Francis Porcel, drew the backgrounds
BD: The elderly lady reminded me of Mr. Magoo. Was that a conscious influence?
JRG: I intended her to have the feeling of someone like Mr. Magoo: someone you could take and hug immediately. And I was actually thinking of The Little Shop of Horrors when I designed characters like the doctors and nurses: people who are very selfish and doing things for their own glory. With regard to The Reaper, I wanted him to be immediately identifiable, but I also wanted to find a bit of the ridiculousness in the character to make him a little more exciting and fun.
BD: How difficult was the character animation?
JRG: It was a little tricky because we didn't want the old lady to have a Pixarish look. For example, the doctors and nurses have eyes very much like you'd have in 2D. And that's tricky to do in 3D because it adds more work on the eyebrows. And The Reaper was a challenge because in 2D you could deform it and do all kinds of things to make it expressive, but in 3D he required the animators to work within confines that made it more challenging to be expressive.
BD: Was there a Day of the Dead influence?
JRG: Yeah, the Mexican part of it was important. I was inspired by the Mexican rituals of death. I wanted it to be highly identifiable.
BD: Any other noteworthy influences?
JRG: I wanted to pay homage to the tradition of The Looney Tunes and those cartoons, which many of the young people today have less exposure to.
BD: What are you working on next?
JRG: Right now I'm working as a storyboard artist on our next feature, Goleor, and for now I'm just making sure the film gets made and, after that, we'll see what comes.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.