New Questions Emerge at PDI/DreamWorks

Conversation was brief on the ride over to PDI/DreamWorks. With the tour winding down, I think we were all winding down as well. When we arrived at the studio, the screening was already in full swing.

Ping pong and animation go together like ink & paint. (top left clockwise) Josh Raskin, Lucie Bloze, Chris Lavis, James Braithwaite. © 2008 AWN Inc.

Ping pong and animation go together like ink & paint. (top left clockwise) Josh Raskin, Lucie Bloze, Chris Lavis, James Braithwaite. © 2008 AWN Inc.

Conversation was brief on the ride over to PDI/DreamWorks. With the tour winding down, I think we were all winding down as well. When we arrived at the studio, the screening was already in full swing. With a bit of down time, we mingled around the lobby and cafeteria, where the draw of more ping-pong was irresistible for I Met the Walrus‘ Josh and James, who said that ping-pong is needed for animation productions to work.

Chris (left) answers a question he's never been asked before about Madame Tutli-Putli. © 2008 AWN Inc.

Chris (left) answers a question he's never been asked before about Madame Tutli-Putli. © 2008 AWN Inc.

With the screening more than 90 minutes, most of the packed theater needed to get back to work. However, those who stayed asked some questions that were never heard before. One audience member asked Madame Tutli-Putli directors Chris and Maciek what powered the train? Chris, impressed by a question that had nothing to do with eyes, said the inspiration for the train was to design a Chicago’s World Fair-like futuristic locomotive that was rundown. The train’s breathing has inspired by the strangely organic slow pulse of the LED light of computers’ power buttons. But along with the brand new question, eye questions cannot be denied. Chris explained that Laurie Maher provided the eyes for the title character, while he and Maciek were the eyes of the chess players. Suzie laughed when asked about taking on the difficult challenge of animating to music and then adding music to animation. She added that the orchestra members said that the live performance of the music with the film was the toughest performance they ever had. Hugh added that they re-commissioned a new version of the score, not to change the notes, but to create new emphasis for their version of the story.

DreamWorks artists Jason Schleifer (hat) talks with Hugh (l), while Rex Grignon (r) chats with Lucie Bloze, Suzie Templeton and Sam Tourneux. © 2008 AWN Inc.

DreamWorks artists Jason Schleifer (hat) talks with Hugh (l), while Rex Grignon (r) chats with Lucie Bloze, Suzie Templeton and Sam Tourneux. © 2008 AWN Inc.

After the Q&A, PDI/DreamWorks treated the group to lunch, but, because of our late arrival, filmmakers from the studio were not able to join us. Knowing that the nominees were there, we did have visits from Madagascar 2: The Crate Escape’s head of layout Noel Meyer and head of animation Rex Grignon, as well as Shrek the Third supervising animator Cassidy Curtis and animator Jason Schleifer, who are working one of the studio’s upcoming features. Rex and Jason, whose credits include Shrek the Third and the Lord of the Rings series, warmly introduced themselves to all the nominees, congratulating them on their nominations. Hearing that they would be in L.A. for the Oscars, Ron invited them to the Chocolate Oscars party next Saturday.

Maciek gives Oscar Showcase host Ron Diamond a hug before leaving for Berkley. © 2008 AWN Inc.

Maciek gives Oscar Showcase host Ron Diamond a hug before leaving for Berkley. © 2008 AWN Inc.

After lunch, Chris and Maciek and Josh and James needed to leave to make it back into San Fran to catch a train to Berkley and visit Tippett Studios. On Saturday, they’re joining a pub-crawl with Phil Tippett and artists from the studio. So with hugs and handshakes, Chris, Maciek, Josh and James bid us ado until we met again on the L.A. leg of our journey.

You can leave the Oscar Tour, but you cannot hide. © 2008 AWN Inc.

You can leave the Oscar Tour, but you cannot hide. © 2008 AWN Inc.

The rest of the crew stayed for a tour of the studio. First, we were treated to clips from DreamWorks’ 2008 releases Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar 2. The Kung Fu Panda clip was the introduction of Po, the Jack Black panda character, to the Furious Five and his less than successful introduction to kung fu training. For Madagascar 2, we saw the first images from the film we’ve ever seen. The clip, which introduces the returning characters to Africa, was a mix of animation at various stages ranging from finished shots to 2D storyboards to rough 3D animatics. Both clips featured some big laughs. After seeing the clips, the nominees were given the tour of production art from recent productions, highlighting the advances from Shrek 2 to Shrek the Third and showing us the detailed models of Shrek’s swamp hut and the Far Far Away palace. With security very tight, we were not able to see where the animators work, but I asked if we could visit the “magic” conference room. With the conference room where one whole wall is a video screen in use, we were able to visit the Halo room where three smaller screens are connected directly to DreamWorks in L.A. with no delay. Because the connection is on 24 hours a day, there is no wasted time fumbling with adjusting cameras and making sure the audio is working.

With that the San Fran leg of the tour came to a close. We said our goodbyes and wished each other well before joining up again for the busy week before the big night.