ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.12 - MARCH 2000
El Dorado: The Old World Meets the New in "Tradigital" Animation
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Prince Paved the Way
While The Prince of Egypt, DreamWorks' first traditionally animated feature, may not have been the financial success that the studio had hoped for, it has paid for itself in the long run by serving as an artistic springboard for El Dorado, a much bolder film with greater commercial possibilities.
James Williams concludes, "In terms of ground-breaking procedures we didn't have to utilize so much new technology on this film. But what we were able to do was to really hone our skills and use some of the technology that we used only in the exceptional scenes in The Prince of Egypt and pretty much use it throughout El Dorado." By "exceptional" Williams means a blend that fuses the artistic quality of two-dimensional paintings and drawings with three-dimensional sets. The layout department created over twenty 3D sets on El Dorado more than four times as many as Prince.
Don Paul, who had previously served as co-head of the visual effects department on Prince, also spoke of how that film influenced the work on El Dorado, which he co-directed with Eric "Bibo" Begeron. "There was a lot of technical ground-breaking we had to do just to get the studio organized and get the type of platform where we could actually create the film [Prince]. We went through a lot of challenges visually for that film, but it established a certain framework of what we would be able to use on this film [El Dorado]."
Co-directors of The Road To El Dorado, Don Paul (left) and Eric "Bibo" Bergeron (right).
While there may have been little ground-breaking technology initiated for El Dorado, the blending of traditional artists and digital artists or "tradigital" -- a word coined by El Dorado's digital supervisor, Dan Phillips -- created a work that takes feature animation to a new level. It is more than coincidental that just as the Old World meets the New World in the film, traditional animation has been blended with digital animation in the production. According to Don Paul, the effect was intentional. "We tried to mix the two [traditional and digital] so that it isn't one or the other. The thing that I enjoy about the way the departments are forming here is that it's a mixture of traditional people and digital people, and they're working together to create the shots. What was really interesting about The Prince of Egypt was we had more of the CG artists than the traditional artists on that show. And because they had worked together for so long, this show started to have its hybrid artists, where they were both. You know, it used to be we'd have to hand off to one or the other. But this new type of artist is starting to grow here, and they usually have a couple of tool sets with them. It may be drawing and it may be digital animation."
Background supervisor Kevin Turcotte (left), background painter Paul Duncan (middle) and art director Paul Lasaine study some of the landscapes for the film. TM & © 2000 DreamWorks LLC.
Kevin Turcotte agrees with Paul. "Artists have their own offices where they do the traditional paintings, but they'll share computers for the digital part. There's a main lab plus two smaller labs. So, they'll actually have two homes here." Of the 18 background animators that Turcotte supervised, 15 were "tradigital" hybrids and only three were purely digital.
"What's really unusual about this film, too, is that on The Prince of Egypt, all of our background approvals were physical backgrounds," Don Paul cited. "On this show [El Dorado], everything was digital, so the background approvals were all on monitor. It's kind of strange. This is the first show I've ever worked on where you couldn't actually hold the painting [for approval]."
If audiences have as much fun watching El Dorado as the 95 animators at DreamWorks had creating it, the film should definitely be a blockbuster. "It was actually much more fun [than Prince] in some ways," Paul states. "We didn't have the same technical hurdles that we had on the last show, and I think people generally had a lot more fun doing the shots and exploring what potentials the system we built had."
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