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September 2015

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Page 22 of 51 21 POST SEPTEMBER 2015 hotels that transform banquet rooms into magical, one-night wedding receptions. This is Drac's hotel, so it would be a big event. He would do the whole hotel, so here was a chance take something that already existed in the first film and light it and swap out some colors of drapery, and I gave it a fresh new feeling. That was my way of taking what's old and making it new." There are new characters in this film? "There are a lot of new characters. The big- gest one is Dennis — Johnny and Mavis's son — who is four years old and just about to turn five. He is sort of the center of the whole movie, about the human world and monster world coming together. "Dennis is right in the middle of that. Is he human? Is he vampire? Nobody really knows. The folklore in the movie is that if you don't receive your fangs by age five, then you are human. And he is danger- ously close to being five. It's a contrast of this kid trying to figure out who he is, because he is surrounded by both." What was the challenge of designing Dennis? "First, visually, parts of both Johnny and Mavis had to be represented. Because he was a boy, and Johnny was so much fun and has crazy hair, we leaned more towards Johnny in his look. That's where his hair came from. That was a lot of fun. But his eyes are Mavis's eyes. They are the exact same color. So we wanted the soul of him to be represented by his mother, but his outward appearance more comes from his dad." His hair is unique? "It's one thing to design things in 2D and draw things — a giant head of hair on a new character — but once you actually build him in CG and model that to scale, and put him against existing characters… You can't change their proportions. They are who they are. He'd need a ginour- mous head to support this ginormous hair. Dracula literally couldn't hold Dennis because his hair was too big and he couldn't even get him close to himself. Dennis's hair and head was twice the size of Dracula's. You have to capture the spirit of the design, but it has to work in an already existing world." How do you adjust for that? "I do all of my work in the computer, but in a 2D way. I work in Photoshop. In the old days, I was a background painter at Disney feature animation, and you would start with a blank white board and do a painting. I don't think any differently in Photoshop. I pull up a blank white board/screen/window and start drawing on it. And those draw- ings become a painting. Those paint- ings get passed on to Imageworks, which is our production house, and they translate those paintings and drawings into 3D." Is that the typical way design is done? "I have a few people — like my layout de- signers — who don't work in color. Maybe they would start thumb-nailing a little bit on paper and scan their thumbnails into the computer, and put layers on top of that and keep refining and refining. "I know character designers who still do their initial sketches on paper and put those in and start refining in Photoshop. It can be a little bit of both. Here, there is nobody at Sony that is painting traditionally. If you are doing a sequence illustration, everybody does them in Photoshop." So you are using a pen and tablet? "We are using the Wacom Cintiq high definition [unit], so you put the stylus right on the screen and paint. It is so close to traditional painting in many ways. You are applying right to your board." As designs progress, who do you ultimately get approval from? "The director is king. It's the director's movie. I was hired for the ability I have, but it's a team effort. The team is trying to find the vision of the director. He's the first stop. "We get an assignment — the ball- room — we work on how we are going to decorate it. We show some preliminary sketches to Genndy Tartakovsky. He's really great. He's the type of director I like working with. If he likes it, he lets you know right away. If it's not right, he'll pull out a sketchpad and do a little thumbnail. He's the approval that we are looking for." Are you a Sony Pictures Animation employee, or are you brought in for films? "I have been a permanent employee for 12 years. I was 2D traditional animation for almost 10 years at Disney feature ani- mation before that, and I was doing truly hand-painted stuff — paint and brushes." What is the order of your work? "We work on a multitude of things. First, we do design of characters, environments and props within those environments. That's just design — no color at that point. I have people who are primarily designers — all they do is design things for me. Then those get passed on to the painting team, and they are responsible for the appropriate colors and textures, and really render- ing the things so that when we hand them off to Imageworks, there's no guesswork. They know the texture for a character's shirt and the color skin of a monster. Then the last thing I do is a color script. We pull six to 12 frames of a sequence — the major moments of it — and we'll paint over those and do color keys, to say this is the color lighting, this is the quality of lighting it should be. If it's an action sequence, it should be very contrasty red. If it's a happy scene it might be softer, more ambient light and warmer and friendlier. We try to set the appropriate lighting and color for every sequence. That's kind of the last part of the process." Is that typical for a color script? "The Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs one was about eight frames. If it's a particularly long sequence, you pull more. But about eight should cover everything." Ultimately, there must be hundreds of frames that you do this for? "There are thousands! All the designs for the environments, all the props, all the characters… If they change wardrobe, each is a different painting. And the color script could be 100 or so little paintings. There is so much artwork done." How big is the team working on this? "At the high point, which was last sum- mer, 15 people. It started with me and two others. Then there were five, then eight. Then the design goes down and they move on to other shows. "We work in chunks. The first teas- er trailer shows the guys on the tower, giving the flying lesson. We don't want to turn it over little by little. It's a package. That is so much work for them, it keeps them incredibly busy." The audience sees much more of the human world in this film? "In the first movie, we saw a little bit of

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