Minkyu Lee Talks Adam and Dog
DS: Tell me about the film’s animation style? How did you produce the film?
ML: The film was done with traditional hand drawn animation. There wasn’t any CG involved. Some of the animators were more comfortable with animating on paper. In the case of me and one of my lead animators, Jennifer Hager, who is a 3D animator at Disney, we animated the majority of our shots on a program called TV Paint straight into the computer. That saved us a lot of time because you don’t have to do scanning or touch ups. We composited the film in After Effects and edited in Adobe Premiere.
DS: How long did it take to do your final editing?
ML: Well, that’s a tricky question. We were animating until the very last minute just because I wanted some shots fixed. The editing itself didn’t really take that much time because I had all the shots and cuts figured out in the storyboarding stage. Also, a big part of the film that I wanted to emphasize to the audience, that I emphasized a lot to the animators, is that I really wanted this to be a performance driven film, much like a character study. Part of the reason why is because we [all the animators on the film] felt like a lot of animated films these days are too plot driven, always trying to keep the energy up rather than letting the characters be who they are. We wanted to portray moments in life rather than trying to get a fast paced story moving forward. That’s precisely the reason that the animators wanted to work on this film.
ML: So even though I did figure out a lot of the shots in the animatic stage, I definitely let the animators perform. I told them if you really feel like the shot should be wider, or if you want the shot to have more breathing room so you can put in a performance that you believe in, then you should do it. I did edit out a little bit here and there. But I wanted to capture the animators’ performances. Too much editing will mess that up.
DS: Let’s talk about the subject matter for a moment. Obviously, your story is based on Biblical characters. But in watching the film, it didn’t seem to be overtly religious.
ML: It’s a very familiar story.
DS: Right. Tell me a little bit about the tone you wanted to take with the story. Were you trying to play down the potential “religious” aspect of the film?
ML: That’s a really good question. It’s really interesting you say that because I’ve been getting very different responses in context to and related to the religious themes of the film. Some people have said, “Wow, that was a very religious and spiritual film” while some people didn’t notice any religious theme at all. It’s delightful to me to hear such a wide variety of responses for one film.
I consider myself a man of faith. Because my faith is a huge part of who I am, I’m sure it leads into everything I create and every decision I make. It does color my world view and it does color my art. So inevitably, I’m sure whether I deliberately tried to put it [themes of faith] in there or not, it’s probably there.
I didn’t want this to be an overtly religious film by any means. I wanted this to be more of a character study, a film that takes an alternative approach to the narrative of an animated film. I worked with two film consultants on the film. One was Glen Keane and the other was Thomas Ethan Harris. I would think they have widely differing faiths. Both approached the film in a different way. I went to Glen a lot to talk about the film. One thing that Glen mentioned, which was a huge part of the film, was the idea of “Grace.” The idea of Grace is such a huge part of my faith. But I think Grace is also a universal element, an idea that is integral to human living. So in terms of the ending of the film, I didn’t want anything to be overt, even the idea of Grace. I didn’t want it to be overtly sentimental or emotionally punctuated. I wanted everything to have this subtle kind of nuance. Glen would use the word “Sprezzatura,” which means this kind of nonchalance. I wanted the film to have that. I wasn’t really trying to do anything overt. Amongst my animators, some of their approaches to the film were very overtly related to their faith and some not at all. Ideally, that’s what I want from this film. I want everyone to discover something different when they watch the film. I don’t want everyone to walk away thinking exactly the same thing, drawing exactly the same conclusion.
DS: I felt that the film was very subtle and that’s what I think is part of its charm. It shows confidence as an artist to allow the story to evolve, allow the characters to do their thing and let the audience make a connection on their own without having to force it on them.
Let’s change subjects. Dog is man's best friend. I think the people’s love for dogs is pretty ubiquitous in every culture. Wherever there are people there are dogs. The variety of dogs you find today is tremendous. You chose to use a fairly non-descript, simple dog…
ML: Right. It was a mutt.
DS: Indeed, a mutt. Why choose that dog?
ML: That’s a really good a question as well. I tried different types of dogs in the beginning. I thought, maybe it’s a Great Dane, maybe it’s a German Shepherd or a Saint Bernard. But here’s the reason why I chose a black mutt, kind of a scrawny, in my mind, a dumpster dog. When I think of Eden, I think of Adam experiencing all the animals, like I show in the film, peacocks and butterflies, beautiful, magnificent, wondrous looking animals. Compared to the other animals, I wanted the dog to look like a bland creature. Nothing in terms of the color, nothing that wows in terms of the fur, nothing really majestic about it. I wanted to show what makes us close to dogs isn’t really the appearance of the dog, even though these days some dogs look really, really cool. I thought it would be interesting to show that all our beautiful dogs of today came from this scrawny mutt. This black dumpster dog if you will. It wasn’t about this dog being a beautiful creature itself, but what was inside the dog that created all these beautiful creatures.