Shane Acker Talks 9 and Beyond
SA: You must know the story: It was Attitude Studio, which had a studio in Paris, but we set up in Luxembourg. And so we worked on the film for about seven months over there in Luxembourg before it became really apparent to us that we were never going to get the movie done with that studio. I mean, they have a lot of talented and dedicated artists, but the pipeline was just not set up [for our needs]. They were adapting a motion capture pipeline into a character pipeline; we sort of discovered through the process that we just didn't have the tools and wouldn't be able to get the tools together in time…
BD: So how did you end up at Starz?
SA: Yeah, so the thing was set up as a negative pick up, and when we had to go to the studio and tell them that we wouldn't be able to guarantee that we could get this movie done on time, then the bond company came in and did a whole audit. And, as part of that audit, they brought in Jinko Gotoh, who is an animation producer. She worked on Finding Nemo and a bunch of Disney projects, so she became a champion for the project. She wanted to find a way to keep it going, even though it meant setting it somewhere else and spending more money. So I really credit her for keeping the project alive and finding a new home for it at Starz Toronto, which turned out to be a wonderful experience with a really great team. And really smart artists who understood the vision and were really collaborative in finding ways to make it work and get the most bang for the buck on screen for a really modest budget. They come from experience where they're working with big studios, but they're up in Canada and finding ways to cut corners and tweaking and refining their pipeline all down the line.
BD: And obviously it stepped them up and prepared them to handle bigger features.
SA: And we took a creative team there and just kind of vetted and bonded with the artists… and there's something about the material and the world that inspired the artists. They got to flex [new] muscles and that helped push the quality of the film.
BD: Talk about developing the look of the characters and the world -- the "Stitchpunk" that borrows from stop-motion.
SA: When I was doing the short, what I felt was lacking in a lot of the CG projects out there were a real texture and grit, as well as a cinematic approach to the storytelling. And I was finding that in stop-motion films, whether it was the Brothers Quay or Jan Svanmajer. I drew a lot of inspiration from them. There's a kind of believability because they had to mechanically work the puppets and armatures that they created for their stop-motion characters. So there was a truth through materials and a grit and grime and texture on the world.
BD: Very tactile.
SA: Yes, very tactile, that drew you in and you believed it.
BD: And how did you make this work in CG?
SA: When I was first doing the short, I was thinking that I would do it as a stop-motion film, but found that it was very limiting in what you could do with the camera to tell the story visually, So I decided to take this sensibility, this interest, this design idea and bring it into the CG world where I can move the camera any way that I want. But at the same time, adhering to the cinematic language of how you move a camera, which, I think, is what Pixar has done.