A few weeks ago, I had took part in a fabulous roundtable interview with Producer Mireille Soria and Production Designer Kendal Cronkhite, two of the main people behind Dreamwork’s latest Animated hit, “”Madagascar.”” This interview originally took place the day before I left for E3, and I’m a little late in posting due to E3 and the fact that only I can go to LA and catch a flu. I still get dizzy looking at the computer, but overall I’m finally 85% better. One note of interest is Mireille was the producer of one of my favorite films, “”Ever After.”” I didn’t know this until after our talk, which is a good thing, otherwise I would have pestered her about that film.
EMHello, I like to start all my interviews off with my basic overly broad question, which is please tell us who you are and why we’re speaking with you?KCI’m Kendal Cronkhite I’m the Production Designer on the film Madagascar, which means I’m responsible for the look of the character, sets, color and everything.MS I’m Mireille Soria the Producer of Madagascar, mean I’m was involved with creating and developing the story, working with the directors of all the various departments, and working with over 350 talented people who worked on this film for 3 or 4 years. Making sure they all have the tools that they need to do the best job possible within the time frame and money constraints that we set.EMHow is it different doing Set Design for an Animated feature versus a live action one?KCWhat’s different is that absolutely everything you see on a screen is created from nothing. With a live action film you have to secure locations, you can rent the car from a rental place, get furniture, etc. In animation you have to build that car, come up with the surfacing for it, not only the car itself, but the hubcaps, tires, the windows, every little thing.EMIs it easier?KCI don’t know if it’s easier, but you have more control over it.MS I think its more labor intensive. There were many times when I said [laughs] “”Can’t we just shoot this?”” Go to New York or something. On the other hand you have so much more freedom.[pagebreak]EMHow is it working with Human Actors versus the Animated ones? MSThe biggest challenge for any of it, whether it’s television [Mireille worked on the hit show 30 Something] or movies is to come up with a story that connects with people. You kind of do what you do, wherever you go. The same skills are involved.EMWhat do you think is the public fascination is with Animated film?MSWe make these movies for ourselves. We don’t go around saying, “”I know what America wants, and it’s this.”” I think we’re hired for our tastes and sensibilities. It’s a gut reaction to what works and doesn’t work. We grew up with cartoons. The films we’re making are targeted towards a broad audience.EMDo you think that Anime and Manga can be credited with making Animation popular for Adult audiences.KCI don’t know, I think it’s great what they are doing, but I don’t know what impact it has in the states.MSThe fact of the matter is, that while artistically is good, Anime and Manga don’t do well here which is a shame. KCI think when Disney started making Animated films again in the 80s, is what sparked the revival of the medium.MSWhat’s interesting is, at a screening. Adults and Kids where both laughing at the same time, but for different reasons, we tried really hard to make scenes play to both audiences.[pagebreak]EMWhen you designed the characters did you have specific actors on board already and created the characters to fit them, or where the characters created first and you found the actors later?KCIt depends on the story you are trying to tell. In “”Shark Tale”” Will Smith definitely looked like that fish. In this, we designed the characters first, we knew we wanted to have an ensemble four characters and that they would definitely be comedic and comedic looking. So Gloria is a circle, Malman is a stick, Marty is cylinder and Alex is an inverted triangle. Their proportions are extreme. They are like the actors in how they move. We video taped the actors during their line readings. The animators are inspired by how the actors are moving and their facial expressions, like Ben Stiller uses his hands a lot. EMSo basically what you are saying is that the characters aren’t based on the actors, but the animation is tweaked?KCNot the design, but the animation is.EMWhat makes Madagascar new or different from previous Animated Features?KCWhen we first started this, the directors really wanted to make a cartoon like the ones we grew up with and take what we loved about Hanna Barbera, Tex Avery, etc