VFX Interview with Ittina Studios Animation Director Bill Miller -

Interview with Ittina Studios Animation Director Bill Miller

null“The abundance of raw talent in India augurs well for the future of the industry”

Shrek, Madagascar, Kong. Three huge projects where many an Indian animator would have given their all to be on the production team. You’ve worked on all three of them. Please tell us about your experience and your role

I was a character animator on all three films.

Shrek 2 was a great experience. It was my first time working on an animated 3D feature film. What was great about this project is that since it was a sequel you basically had Shrek 1 to watch as reference when animating. So when you started to animate your shot you knew exactly how the character should think and move. I also worked on Shrek 4D ( a ride film for Universal Studios ) prior to working on Shrek 2. This definitely helped me get into the style of animation. My personal feeling is that the we surpassed the quality of Shrek 1 in both look and animation.

Madagascar was a film that everyone was dying to get on. We were all crunching on Shrek 2 when the animation started on Mad. Everyone was really blown away by the style. It looked so fun. So after we got off of Shrek, which is a more realistic style of animation, we had to jump into this crazy cartoony style which looked like all the characters have been eating too much sugar. It was so fun. This was the kind of animation every animator dreams of doing while they are in school! I really love all of the characters. My favorite to animate was probably Melman the Giraffe. I like the design and David Schwimmer’s voice was great to animate.

Kong was my second gorilla movie. I worked on Mighty Joe Young back in 1997. When I got offered the job to go work for Weta I jumped at the chance. I was a really big fan of Peter Jackson and a Lord of the Rings geek. When each of the movies came out I saw them on opening day. It was great to sit in a room with Peter Jackson. Not only is he a great director he really understands animation and gives great direction. He is very picky but that’s good because you want to work with a director with a strong vision. Kong was a hard production. Towards the end of the movie everyone was working very late seven days a week. But after it was all over we were all very proud. Especially when it won the oscar for best visual effects.

How come after doing top projects like these, you decided to come and set shop in India?
One of the great things about working in animation is that it is going on all over the world. So you have opportunities to see different countries. Part of the lure of going to work for Weta was that it is in New Zealand. I had also worked at Polygon in Tokyo for about three years. I enjoy living in different countries and experiencing different cultures.

I did work on big projects like Kong and Shrek, but I feel that projects like these can be done here in India in the future. The industry needs time to grow here, eventually we will get there. Animation is not something you learn overnight.

What is the most exciting thing about Indian animation?
A lot of demo reels that I have seen here have very cliched acting in it. One of the things that animators here ought to study more is acting. That’s one of the major weaknesses. On a positive note, I see a lot of raw talent here that needs to be nurtured. The abundance of raw talent augurs well. Animation is a people driven business and India has a lot of talented people who are eager to learn.

What are your plans at Ittina Studios?
We are planning to do some service work but our goal is to produce our own original content. I am the animation director here, but I eventually want to be director and do TV Series, shorts, features and my own projects out here at Ittina. I have lot’s of ideas and I would love to see them on the big screen.

In terms of learning curve required for Indian artists to go through? Which department seems the steepest?
I am biased but I would have to say animation. Animation is something that you can do for 50 years and still think you are inadequate. You learn something new everyday no matter how long you have been doing it.

What’s your personal style?
More on the cartoony side, somewhere like Madagascar but a little smoother, Madagascar was too poppy and extreme although I loved the style, for my personal taste I’d make it a little smoother.

I like the Old Disney stuff like Jungle Book, somewhere in between that and Madagascar is what I personally like. Incredibles would be the ultimate style for me, great style, cartoony timing but at the same time very smooth.

A word of advice to young animators amongst Animation ‘xpress readers?

Always put your all into every scene, there’s no unimportant scene, every scene is important. People are always clamouring to get the best scene, but if you do your best on a small scene , the director’s going to appreciate and you will move forward.

For self learning I would suggest getting Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit. Also read the Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.

Watch as much animation as possible, watch stuff every night. Build a better animation vocabulary. Also you can download a personal learning edition of Maya for free. There are also free characters that are already rigged on the net. The most important thing is to keep on animating. That’s the only way you get better.