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Will You See This Movie? Legendary Animator Phil Tippett On His Latest Project ‘Mad God’ and the Changing Course of Visual Effects

Will You See This Movie? Legendary Animator Phil Tippett On His Latest Project 'Mad God' and the Changing Course of Visual Effects

Even if you haven’t heard of Phil Tippett, chances are you’ve seen his work. As an animator and visual effects supervisor on films such as the original Star Wars trilogy, the “Robocop” series, “Jurassic Park,” and most recently, the “Twilight” series, his work has been adored by multiple generations of movie goers.

In between leading an industry and winning two academy awards, Tippett found time to work on his pet project, a bizarre animation “collage” entitled “Mad God,” “an experimental, hand-made, animated film, set in a Miltonesque world of monsters, mad scientists, and war pigs.”

As a result of his frenetic professional life, “Mad God” has been in the works for almost half of Phil’s career. “I started shooting on 35mm film way back in the early 90’s and then the project kind of fell into disrepair when the digital age hit. So I had to recalculate and spend a lot of time re-engineering our business from photographic to digital so ‘Mad God’ kind of went on hold. ”

The shift from photographic to digital visual effects took Tippett off guard. “Jurassic Park”‘s creature animations marked the transition from old to new Hollywood effects for Tippett, as the dinosaurs, originally designed to be rendered in stop animation, were eventually animated using CGI. The transition wasn’t easy, and Tippett had to shift gears away from the actual animation. Tippett explains, “By the time Jurassic Park rolled around the whole photographic game pretty much was over even though we shot on film still. My real relationship to the stuff, kind of grew more into the strengths of knowing how to set up a project, and I became a lot more involved with designing and pre-production and helping the writers and directors and DPs.”  

“Mad God” appeared again once the waters had settled. Tippett describes archiving a short trailer of “Mad God,” surrounded by his younger colleagues who were fascinated by the footage, thinking it was “some long lost Czechoslovakian thing.” Tippett ascribes their interest in the project as partially a result of their growing up in a digital context, and “Mad God” being, “a throwback to older, more in-camera techniques and processes” that were now rarities in the industry. 

In Hollywood, Tippett had very few experiences directing. Following the success of his work on “Starship Troopers,” he was tapped to helm the film’s sequel. When asked what that experience was like, Tippett tells us, “I wouldn’t wish directing on anybody! It’s kind of the worst job in the world.”

In order to construct “Mad God” the way he wanted, Tippett realized he’d have to work outside of Hollywood. “It’s a very non-commercial kind of endeavor. I’d spent years trying to pitch different projects down Hollywood and everything that I came up with was commercial so I just said, ‘screw it I’m just gonna make this thing that I wanna make.’ And that’s where we’re at.”

Working on Mad God allowed him to lead a project, but collaborate with other filmmakers and avoid “the litany of issues and complications that come along in terms of dealing with other people’s money.” With the extravagant success of their Kickstarter campaign, making $84,000 dollars more than their original $40,000 goal, “Mad God” finally has the budget and independence to see its vision to fruition. 

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