In 2004 the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was in it’s fourth year. Three very different films were nominated (“The Triplets of Belleville,” “Brother Bear,” and “Finding Nemo”), with ‘Nemo’ taking home the award. Since then demand for high-performing animated films has skyrocketed. In 2013, three animated features made it into the top 10 grossing movies of the year (“Despicable Me 2,” “Frozen,” and “Monsters University”), bringing in over $600 million combined. Needless to say, Hollywood plans on riding this wave for the foreseeable future, and The Hollywood Reporter recently held a roundtable discussion with some of this year’s Best Animated Feature nominees.
THR film editor Gregg Kilday and technology writer Carolyn Giardina brought together Chris Buck (co-director of “Frozen”), Dan Scanlon (director of “Monsters University”), Chris Wedge (director of “Epic”), Kristine Belson (producer of “The Croods”), and Chris Meledandri (Illumination CEO and a producer of “Despicable Me 2”) for a conversation about the animation industry and it’s future.
Chris Meledandri regarding sequels: “You have to honor what you know the audience loves, which is usually what the filmmaking team loves about the film, but then pushing to new terrain in terms of character and story.”
Kristine Belson on acting in animated films: “For me in particular what’s blown me away since I entered the animation field is the animation itself and the acting. The bar just keeps getting higher and higher in the facial performance, and to me that’s incredibly exciting.”
Meledandri on collaborating with actors to create animated characters: “Very early on we embraced using Steve Carell in shaping the character of Gru, and he decided to do the voice in an accent. That meant no one seeing the film would know it was him because it doesn’t sound anything like Steve. But what we found was that throughout the process of making the film that his contribution during the recording sessions were continually bringing us to new discoveries, and those discoveries would then be fed back to the writers.”
Meledandri on what makes animators wake up in the morning: “I think this whole medium has been vibrant for so long it because all of us are all endeavoring to make each film that we work on distinctive and try to push on into new terrain. You have so many people spending so much time on each of these films, that you have to ask yourself, why are they worthy? What is it that’s worthy about what you’re working on that you can go and ask hundred of people to dedicate years of their lives? And one of the constant themes that I’m hearing through technology, storytelling, or character development is that all of us are intent upon creating a new experience for the filmmaking team so people can feel really engaged and excited, and for the audience when they come to the theater to see it.”
Chris Wedge on broadening what makes animated film: “‘Gravity’ is an example, ‘Life of Pi’ is an example, you can’t make these movies any other way. When you go to the movies you want to be immersed in a world that you don’t have any access to. And those are great examples of where you can go – there’s no other way. That kind of immersion is what animation does well, and for me it’s that transportation to another place. It doesn’t have to be all cartoony necessarily, though there’s nothing wrong with it, but maybe there’s another way to do it. Maybe there’s some genre lines that gotta blur, but it’s gotta happen.”
Give it all a watch below.