#FeatureFriday: “I wish to die sitting in the director’s chair”– Anthony Bell

The talent house, Anthony Bell was in India for some production work related to another treat he is soon serving us. The Norm franchise is growing, with the next feature film coming soon for the audience. Director Bell in an exclusive interview with AnimationXpress shared some fond moments he had in India.
Anthony Bell
How do you find India and the culture here? I am loving India, this is my fourth or maybe fifth trip here. I originally came when I released the film Alpha and Omega in 2001. Later I came for various other projects and served as the supervising director at DreamWorks for How to train your Dragon. What is your best work till date? I constantly chase story and challenge myself to find the best way to tell story on screen. All my works are my babies. When I take up any project I look out for the challenge it has. I have to wake up for that every morning. I really liked The Sissy Duckling. And, I love Rugrats. I grew up as an artist on Rugrats. I want to keep doing my best. I don’t wish to retire. I want to die sitting in the director’s chair! Are any new TV series coming from your side? I can’t disclose that but things are developing. How do you find the Indian IPs today? What makes it different from the international IPs? Indian production houses work extremely hard. The talent here is tremendous and twice as fast as that in overseas. The quality of feature film is growing. For an IP to grow, you need to take time in figuring out the quality you invest in and the story. If these two things come together, you have a recipe for a good feature animated story. What is the trend in the industry currently? Each studio selects a strong story-telling. Disney adds musicals to the story. DreamWorks has beautiful animation. Audience is looking for a story too. They have to escape reality, so they go for movie. They wish to see hope at the end of tunnel and transfer themselves to a different reality. Bigger studios have super heroes or their own IPs which have built in audience. But, films that go for Oscars have real stories which connect with audience and transfer them to another world. What attracts the audience more? Story, story, and only story. California School of arts is dedicated to traditional animation. So, when I graduated from there I thought animation is the best way to tell a story. But after becoming a director I understood story ranks higher. There are different elements like lighting, music, animation, effects, movement, textures, voice. There is no one particular thing but if we maintain hierarchy, then story is always the king. Which Indian IPs do you like? I don’t understand why Indian creators are more interested in American market when they already have enough original content and elements to create an IP from. When I came here and saw the warli painting I thought why this is not an IP. I don’t know much IPs here but, I am a Disney geek. I like Jungle Book. What is the upcoming project all about? This is the third instalment of Norm. The main character Norm is struggling with himself and work life. He has to juggle responsibilities with family. This is a universal story. Men work for 10-12 hours a day and are not able to give time to family. The story is about creating balance. I understand their dilemma as I have been a director for 27-28 years and have made these sacrifices while my boys were growing up. The story resonates to me as it comes through personal approach. Assemblage is my family. We even celebrated my twenty-seventh wedding anniversary with the team. We have a bond. The work culture is incredible. Here the average day stands around 10 am to 10 at night. In States most people have two days off. Here it’s consistent. It’s strange to see the guys have so much passion in what they are doing. They want to keep doing it better. Why should we go to watch Norm of the North? For its amazing story! It will have family vacation and is a universal story. It will connect to working class parent. Some investors in China are taken back by the quality. We are creating a culture with quality here. My team here know the whole story and they are really working hard. I have worked with dozen Indian studios, if there is any issue people working on it come with a solution. The credit goes to my team here and post production team in states. Who are the brains behind the idea? Norm is a franchise. We wanted to touch globally. I could relate to the story. It’s a comedy. No villains. Whole thing is about kids wanting attention of dad. We wanted to show this is a funny way. So, it’s basically a team effort. We do pre-production at Splash. We create storyboards there. Then it goes in the hands of Assemblage’s, the post production is handled by them. What were the challenges while working on the project? It’s not work if it’s not challenge. And this was very challenging. I have done something easy when I worked on TV series. Splash and Assemblage work together. Splash is a small team. Assemblage has around 400 people working. And, all have to be on the same page, and that’s the challenge. Think about it. Execute tonality. Make decisions based on timeframe. Huge! But great challenge. There is fun doing independent movie, which will look way more interesting than the budget. We are thinking about how to make it look like a 100 club movie. Norm is a high level quality movie. You all will love it. Assemblage will be looking after the post-production stage of the upcoming feature directed by Bell and it’s going to be worth the wait!