Lionsgate and Crest Animation have just announced the voice cast of their animated feature film co production Alpha and Omega. The producer of the feature (from Crest Animation) Richard Rich and the directors Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck have been in India for a week now collaborating with the artists at Crest‘s CG studio in Ghatkopar. In an exclusive conversation with AnimationXpress.com they share their excitement for the project
(L to R) : A K Madhavan, CEO, Crest Animation Studios Limited, Richard Rich; Producer (from Crest), Alpha & Omega, Anthony Bell, Director Alpha & Omega & Ben Gluck, Director, Alpha & Omega
Who is the writer of Alpha & Omega?
Richard Rich: Alpha & Omega is an original story by Steve Moore who co created Open Season for Sony. Moore also has a daily comic strip called In the Bleachers which is syndicated across newspapers in the US. He is incredibly funny and gifted. Moore came up with the idea for Alpha & Omega, wrote a treatment and posted it to Lionsgate and us a few years ago. We loved it and the reason we have taken close to a couple of years on this is because we have been working on the script to make it as strong as possible and have been developing the characters. It‘s all about plussing. Steve‘s treatment was amazing and we plussed it to take it to a new level. With the character development and the voice cast its again going to the next level. And with the kind of work of pre production happening in Burbank and CG work in India we all are pushing the project to the very best it can be.
Have you already completed the voices recordings?
Richard Rich: There are three voice recording schedules, the first session is complete and the next ones are lined up for May and June. Based on the first schedule we are working on the animatics.
Who selects the voice cast?
Richard Rich: It‘s not an individual decision, its the core team. The voice cast has to be internationally exciting and you have to find the balance that will promote the film as well as help to create the characters that you want to.
Inititally what is ready is the script and the story board, the voice actors give their performance based on the story board. And once we have the voice performance we go back to the story board again and fine tune it to new levels which the actors have created through their performance and timing. This is an iterative process and the focus is always on how do we do it better.
Its an exciting process, In Burbank we are developing the story board, the animatics and the art in 2d while our colleagues in India are building the CG assets and testing the grey scale animation so that they are ready to start animating. We are working in a sequential manner where we are developing sets of sequences in pre production and our colleagues in India are working on CGI. This allows us to maximize the time that we have for creative inputs and improvisation.
So do you have a set of animation directors and supervisors present at all times in India?
Richard Rich: We have Indian animation supervisors and team leads at Crest and we have great confidence in them. Let me tell you about the first time I visited Crest and India…. they made wonderful presentations and we walked around for couple of days…. I asked whether I can spend some time with the animators and artists on my own. And I was blown away when I sat with the artists, they were so motivated and enthused. They all had their own personal tests and clips to show me. The spontaneity, the timing they have is equally good as the best in the world. And out here they have opportunity to keep at it and constantly improve.
What is it that strikes you the most about Indian animation?
Anthony Bell: I have been 18 years in animation and have been directing for 14 years. I have done a lot of television and have worked with many many animation studios across the world. The thing that strikes me about Indian animation artists is that they are so passionate about their art. They are so committed and dedicated about doing a good job. Always willing to learn and improve. They are as much a part of the Alpha & Omega team as anyone else in LA, and they are making creative contribution to the project too.
What‘s genre is Alpha & Omega?
Anthony Bell: Alpha & Omega is a very endearing, universal love story. We as the directors of this film love the story and are doing our best to communicate it through animation to audiences all across the world who will all be able to see and relate to it.
How is it working between LA & Mumbai?
Anthony Bell: We are all in one team and the processes and the creativity flow seamlessly between India and L.A. The key thing is communication. Systems have been developed to ensure that communication, spontaneity and the creativity is seamlessly shared. With this structure we are striving to, and will achieve the storytelling quality and the production standards of Pixar and Dreamworks.
What is the best thing about animation? What keeps you motivated?
Ben Gluck: I love it. Since I was a little kid this is what I wanted to do. It‘s the passion of filmmaking in the animation medium. Among the films I love include The Little Mermaid. In fact I love story telling and I love all animation films for different reasons. As a director I am quite a Zen director. And the key thing for me is “one must be true to the story”.
Richard Rich: There are 700 people at Crest and of them, 200 of the most talented and expert artists are working on the feature, and its amazing, you just walk around the studio here at Crest and you see groups of young artists in corners, discussing and trying to solve CG related problems, meet the fur challenges. The enthusiasm and drive with which the artists here in Crest in India are approaching the movie, inspires us even more as producers and directors of the film.
Anthony Bell: The excitement is contagious and the artists really seem to be having fun. That is most important.