Are you one to ever think about what’s next for you when on the set of something you’re currently working on, or does the inspiration come afterwards, when you’ve distanced yourself from the past project?
I might think about it in the bad moments. In the dark moments, I might contemplate what else I might be doing and fantasize about it being something else. Usually, I do one thing at a time. Lately, on the set of a live-action movie, I tend to think it would be very nice to do an animated film. When you do an animated movie, it’s on a very low boil for a very long time -- when you do a movie with living human beings and actual weather, it tends to be a little more intense.
From the sounds of it, in an ideal world you follow-up every live action feature with an animated one.
I think that would be good. I wouldn’t mind doing a big animated movie and a small live-action movie back and forth, in succession.
Speaking of animated films, I’m such a huge fan of “Mr. Fox.” It’s such a beautifully crafted and eccentric work -- do you ever plan on following it up with something similar?
I want to. For me, I was never particularly interested in animation in general, I’ve just always loved stop-motion animation. I would love to do another stop-motion movie. I loved the whole process of it, it’s something that I’m very drawn to. I don’t know if people would want to go to a stop-motion movie, it’s kind of expensive to make that kind of a movie. I’m not entirely sure if people go to them. “Mr. Fox” was pretty well received, and yet, not very many people saw that movie. I just don’t know if it’s a good business decision for anyone who is going to have to fund it, but I would like to.
But now with the popularity of 3D stop-motion films such as “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” it seems like they're "hot" again.
Maybe they are. So you think I need to do one in 3D?
Sure, why not?
Well, that makes it more expensive. But I’ll give it a try.
Since we're on this animation kick -- how has your approach with actors evolved since delving into the medium with "Mr. Fox?"
It’s interesting, because doing an animated movie is very planned. What the actual visual characters are going to do is decided in advance, and it all happens very slowly and methodically. Although the animators take over at certain moments and they’re like actors -- no two animators do the same thing in the same way. You get to know who you want to do a certain shot, because you might think that you want a certain part of their personality in it. Working with actors -- recording the voices for an animated movie -- is extremely free and spontaneous, and there’s not a camera. You can do anything. We recorded a lot of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” at a farm in Connecticut. We had a great time. I think, since doing an animated movie, I prepare a bit differently for the movie. I use some of the animation techniques when it comes to visualizing the movie in advance; I’d always done some version of that, but now I actually animate the stuff. I’m kind of prepared in a different way. Working with actors, what makes it exciting tends to be the same -- having the thing you’ve written suddenly brought to life by people who you dream about having do it.
Did making an animated film make you even more of a perfectionist, with respect to the visuals of your live-action work? "Moonrise," in particular, could be paused at any moment and the shot would be worthy of mounting on a wall.
That’s a nice thing to say. One thing is, now, often I do things where there are longer takes, and -- where normally you might edit together a bunch of shots and make a sequence that way -- I often do longer takes that get strung together, and you don’t have as much control over what happens in every moment. Now, we actually have all of this digital control over things and if we say, I actually don’t like what we ended up with on the bulletin board in the background of this shot -- we can go remake the bulletin board and photograph it, and put it into the shot. You can spruce up a lot of things. You can polish it a bit, and add ideas, and things like that. That didn’t used to happen... that’s something I never did until the last couple of movies. It’s fun. Someone like Robert Zemeckis has probably been doing that since 1975, but for me, that’s a new thing. It tends to take a different form -- [for him,] adding in a plane, flying upside down. For me, I’m adding in the -- oh, what’s the phrase? The thing that you weave, like a keychain. Those little plastic, braided things that Scouts and people at camp make -- that’s the kind of thing that I digitally add in.
It’s a lanyard. Thank you. I would digitally add a lanyard -- while Zemeckis might digitally add a 747 flying upside down.