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CON: WB Animation




John Davis – director
Sarah Mensinga – concept artist
H.B. “Buck” Lewis – character designer
Chris Consani – art director
Bob Eggleton – concept artist

Warner Bros.’ THE ANT BULLY is without a doubt the most star-studded animated film ever made with a cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Bruce Campbell, Lily Tomlin and lots more. In fact, when director John Davis first walked onto the stage, he said “I thought, you know, instead of bringing Julia Roberts or Meryl Streep, I’ll bring some animators…” to which a completely silent room collectively thought “what the f*ck, dude?!?” In all honesty, though, it was good to see Davis putting a focus on the men and women who slave away creating those stunning visuals.

In the film, which is based on the children’s book of the same name, a boy who routinely tortures ants is shrunken to ant size and placed to work in the colony he tortured in order to experience first-hand the ant lives he was ruining. The trailer was the only footage they showed as most of the panel was the director narrating a PowerPoint presentation of the creation of the characters. I’ll run through some of the highlights from both the presentation and the subsequent Q&A. The film opens this Friday, July 28th.

  • At first they tried a realistic design with the protagonist but realized that was too creepy so they skewed his proportions and gave him somewhat of a caricature head.

  • They modeled Paul Giamatti’s exterminator character after Giamatti with initial designs ranging from a more comedic look to a “what would Henry Kissinger look like as Satan?” look.

  • They wanted to strike a balance between the ants having slight human characteristics yet remaining decidedly insect-like.

  • One of the more interesting things they did was after they showed the process of rigging characters, they showed how they test-animated characters by putting them through an actual obstacle course to see how well both the ants’ and human characters’ behavior and movements conformed themselves to their environment.

  • They showed a few sequences where they cycled from the book illustrations to the concept art to the final sequence in the film. The sequences included when the kid first becomes ant size to when he’s sentenced to work in the colony.

  • It was important to Davis to create an alien-looking civilization for the ant colony and for the ants’ biology to be accurate but still be able to function on six legs and two legs.

  • When Davis was asked about whether he was worried about parallels to A BUG’S LIFE or ANTZ, he mentioned that initially he was but realized that there was room for more and used the abundance of “cowboy movies” as an example (where he also managed to sneak in a BROKEBACK reference – what you got against gay cowboys, dude??!)

  • Davis modeled the alien-type of civilization after tribal and aboriginal cultures. He felt that, like aboriginal cultures, ants were connected to Earth and communicated with odor cues.

  • Interesting side note – ants apparently have antibiotics on their bodies so if ever you’re in the jungle, get sick and have no medicine, rub some ants on you and you’ll be set!

  • They differentiated the ants’ world from the humans’ world by spatial cues – for example, things are round and small in the human world but large and cavernous in the ant world.

  • Since the entire film is in IMAX 3D, the production faced more challenges as they had to do everything in real 3D space and couldn’t do any 2D cheats.


George Miller – director

After THE ANT BULLY panel was over, director George Miller introduced an extended trailer for HAPPY FEET, another penguin film in which Elijah Wood voices a tap-dancing penguin that falls for a singer voiced by Brittany Murphy. Robin Williams also voices a character in the film that’s part of a penguin group that apparently serve as Wood’s character’s posse. Williams seems to be doing his usual hyper manic shtick. Finally, according to the director, the musical and dance sequences are extremely important to the film. It opens November 17th, 2006 and you can check out its trailer here.


Kevin Munroe – director

The second (and final) big panel was for The Weinstein Co.’s TMNT (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES). It was only director Kevin Munroe on stage but he did bring with him a bad ass trailer (which debuted online fifteen minutes after appearing at the Con) and some exclusive and equally bad ass early footage. Here are the highlights from the Q&A with Munroe and the footage he showed (since you’ve probably all seen the trailer). The film is set for release on March 30, 2007.

  • This film will pick up where the previous two films left off with a little bit of influence from the earlier comics. Munroe mentioned it was “sort of rebirth” of the Turtles.

  • The design of the Turtles and the film being an action comedy was influenced by the earlier comics because Munroe felt the sense of family and constant bickering with the brothers prevalent in those comics was the essence of the Turtles.

  • We’ll get an announcement on the voice talent within a month but they will not be celebrity voices (nor will they be Vanilla Ice or Corey Feldman). He managed to get all the actors in one room to record their lines. He did mention one voice talent – Mako as the voice of Splinter.

  • He mentioned that the film brings the Cassie Jones/April O’Neil storyline further along, specifically saying that “they kiss” and hinting that “they bone”.

  • He mentioned that he wants there to be a distinct Turtles theme.

  • The only things he said about the plot was that it was kind of a “Return to NY” story, he felt the movie had to be grounded in some sort of reality and that Shredder was not the bad guy (but if there were to be sequels, he’d be showing up). Kurai and the Foot Ninjas are present, though.

  • Most importantly, there will be no human on turtle action so for those of you looking for that, ewwwwwww!

  • Finally, the footage that was shown had a Splinter voice over with shots of monsters, jungles, foot ninjas, facial tests, concept designs, muscle tests, dynamic fight tests and some typical Turtles humor (specifically, Michelangelo getting pounded by children at a birthday party).

Source: JoBlo.com



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