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An in-depth look at the KING AND I production process

Burbank, California-based Rich Animation's upcoming animated feature THE KING AND I, slated for release March 19, utilized a unique production process by transferring animation scenes via the Internet between artists located in California, Europe, China, India, Korea and Canada. By avoiding the massive overhead costs associated with typical feature animation studios, Rich was able to compete with the big boys by delivering a theatrical quality feature on a budget. The process worked like this: First, animators all over the world created a digital line test of their rough drawings, which were compressed and sent via e-mail to Rich Animation to be reviewed daily. Changes were sent back as notes via e-mail with occasional video attachments from the director to illustrate a specific action. Once the rough animation was approved, pencil drawings were sent to Brown Bag Films in Dublin, or to Rich, where they were scanned into Cambridge Animation's Animo software and a scene file was created. Next, the Animo scene file and rough drawings were sent to Hanho Heung-Up Studio in Seoul, Korea where the clean-up portion of the film was centralized to keep a certain consistency. Once again, line tests of clean-up drawings were sent to Rich Animation daily for approval. Final digital paint and compositing work was divided between Rich Animation, Colorland in China and Pentafour in India using the Animo system.

This streamlined process was made possible by Rich Animation's computer systems engineer Paul Cowell, who developed a system within Animo so that everybody used the same file standards and naming conventions. When asked about what this means for independent animation producers, Tom Tobin, Vice President of Studio Operations, Rich Animation, commented, "I think it proves there is a way to make feature quality animation outside of Los Angeles. The fear that many producers have with using the Internet is that when you go out of that traditional studio setting, you lose control over the product because everyone isnt situated under one roof. What we discovered is that there are equally talented artists in every corner of the world who can complete the job. Another one of the advantages to working this way is that when we go home at night, there are animators across the world just starting their days work on the film. Were literally in production on the film 24 hours a day." Because of the nature of the Internet, Tobin points out some of the problems, "were scene file sizes and data transfer capacity. Your average animator doesnt have an ISDN or T1 line but with our file compression utility, those type of connections werent necessary to send line tests." However, during the digital paint stage where file sizes became larger, problems arose. Originally, it was to be painted completely at Pentafour's facility but their file transfer capacity proved to be too low requiring portions of the film to be painted elsewhere. With THE KING AND I, Rich Animation has harnessed the power of the Internet and combining it with Animo, has created a unique and cost-effective digital production process.

THE KING AND I will be reviewed in the April issue of Animation World Magazine.