- The New York Times reported that Jonathan Demme is planning to make an animated feature of the book, Zeitoun by Dave Eggars.
The book is about the reconstruction efforts taking place in New Orleans done since the Katrina disaster effort.
Apparently Demme was taken by the illustration on the cover of the book and immediately saw it as animation. He’s quoted as saying, “I was staring at the book, and there’s this wonderful line drawing on the cover, the character of Zeitoun in his canoe, paddling through a submerged neighborhood. And I suddenly imagined, What if we could do an animated film and visualize the experiences of the Zeitoun family and all of New Orleans?”
They haven’t decided what the style of the film will look like, but Demme favors a hand-drawn style for the film.
The New Yorker magazine has a profile of Wes Anderson. (I’ve given the link to the magazine, but it’s open only to subscribers.) Anderson is the director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenanbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. He’s also the director of the upcoming puppet film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was based on the Roald Dahl book.
The article opens and closes with a couple of columns about the animated film, but primarily focuses on Anderson’s bio and career.
In reading the article, a short bit popped out at me.
- For stop-motion animation, the actors’ voices must be recorded in advance, so that the figurines’ mouths can be moved in synch with the dialogue. The recording is usually done in a sound studio. Anderson did things differently. In the fall of 2007, he took a handful of actors, including (George) Clooney and (Bill) Murray, to a friend’s farm in Connecticut. In order to make the voices and the film’s soundscape realistic, Anderson had his actors perform the motions—running, digging, and climbing—that the figurines would perform; he recorded the exterior scenes in the fields, and the interiors in the farmhouse.
Anderson’s direction, with its protracted long takes and tight closeups, treats the figurines like actors, emphasizing their “performances.” The production designer, Nelson Lowry, told me that Anderson’s approach to animation was “very counterintuitive.” He made, Lowry added, “unconventional choices, such as keeping characters still. Usually, animators keep characters constantly in motion; if they re doing nothing, they blink.” Lowry calls Anderson’s expressive stillness a “compression of character.”
Let me repeat part of that last sentence: “Usually, animators keep characters constantly in motion; if they re doing nothing, they blink.”
This is the notion that live-action directors (probably all live action film makers) have of acting in animation. And I can’t argue too much with that. This is a good deal of acting in animated films: keep it moving, keep it moving, keep it moving regardless of the thought the characters are supposed to be having.
However, Anderson’s notion of acting, “keep it still” isn’t acting either. I remember Ralph Bakshi giving a talk after making Lord of the Rings, just prior to a screening. He said that humans stand still most of the time, but that if an animated character would sit still, it wouldn’t be acceptable. It would look like poor limited animation. It’s a problem good animators enjoy solving.
Unfortunately, what I’ve seen of The Fantastic Mr. Fox looks like poor limited animation in puppets – a bit like those old Rankin-Bass episodes of Pinocchio. The difference is that the characters, here, are covered with fur making them look more like an early Starevich film. (Regardless, I like Anderson’s films so I’m still looking forward to seeing this – however it’s animated.)
Getting back to some real animation, Hans Perk (in case you didn’t know) has been posting the drafts from Snow White. What a resource his site is! Many thanks, Hans.