David Silverman Talks Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Dan: Right. Outside of starting as a rough 3D study, was there any consideration regarding where this short would show, what you guys would do with it? Normally, larger studios do shorts for very specific reasons, like testing technology or testing a director, or there is a lull in production. This doesn’t quite fit into any of those scenarios.
David: Not really. I think we knew that once we decided to produce something there were certain places where we could show it. You can always show it with whatever 3D film might be coming out. We knew that. In some ways I guess we were testing out 3D technology in a sense. But no, it wasn’t like a real grand experiment where we have this new technology to test out. It was more, more like having fun. It’s hard to describe. Part of it too is that when deciding we’re going to do this, we aren’t going to stop and think about why we’re doing this.
Dan: Fair enough.
David: Yeah, but in some ways, we were sort of experimenting with 3D. That’s absolutely the case. They had been experimenting with it as I say, but there is only so much you could test with something that hadn’t been designed to be 3D. And we said, okay we’re really designing this short to be 3D, so let’s see what we can do.
Dan: How long did it take to produce?
David: Well, we came up with the idea and then it sat on the shelf for a little while. It really kicked in at the end of February last year. I had done a version of it [a script]. It had a lot of things that everybody liked and a lot of things everybody felt we still had to adjust and work on. We had another meeting which had a lot of breakthrough ideas of how really to structure this film. After that we were really off to the races. The production period was between March and May. I didn’t have a giant crew but a very experienced crew of artists. The main thing is, I got a crew of “3Dologists,” I guess you could call them, stereographers headed by Eric Kurland, who has done quite a bit of 3D. His mentor was the late great Ray "3D" Zone. He said this was really perfect, in some ways, because his work with Ray was like what we were doing…shifting flat layers to create 3D because this is drawn animation as opposed to dimensional 3D animation.
I’m being a little cagey about our production time because the film was produced rather fast and I don’t want people to think that, “Oh, we just sort of knocked it out.” We didn’t. We just had a very short production time between the time they said go and the time we had to make our deadline, which ended up being for Ice Age 4. We were on a deadline.
Dan: How much did your production pipeline change to accommodate the 3D?
David: We didn’t change our normal animation [pipeline] per se. What we had to do was devise, for the studio in Korea that did the cleanup, ways of dividing up the levels. So somebody was basically in-charge…in every scene, he or she would go through and say, “OK, here are the levels. We’re going to need Maggie’s arm separated from her body and her head. Her eyes and nose we kept as one unit. Eric said that’s [that separation] not necessary. We can manipulate that in After Effects if we want to separate that further.
So, sometimes we did the hand and the forearm or the upper arm and the body, depending on the character. The separation for cleanup was pretty intense. Every scene was like a giant phone book of drawings. A normal scene with one character running across the screen was suddenly, for 35 frames, multiply that by maybe 10 levels or so…
Dan: A lot more work.
David: Yeah, a lot more work. We had worked out a system that…we were really chasing the deadline at this point…we would try to get out 10 scenes of animation to [to our production partner Akom in] Korea and they would try to clean it up and get it back to us in two weeks. It worked out well actually. Of course it helps that we can send [work] digitally now.
Dan: Sure, sure.
David: We sent them the digital drawings and they sent us the digital clean ups. We composited everything here. On the show, generally speaking, it’s composited at Akom or Rough Draft. But we composited [the short] here for a number of reasons. We had a lot of background shadowing. We did all the background paintings here because we did all the 3D dimensionality here.