“Don’t overthink your skill level, and always bring a willingness to learn. Your colleagues will possess massive skills to help you grow. When you are starting off as an animator and are receiving notes from creatives, ask yourself what they care about the most. What’s most important about a shot, sequence or piece of art? It’s a focusing question that will make the process flow!”
Those excellent words of advice come from J.P. (Jean-Philippe) Vine, who is directing his first animated feature Ron’s Gone Wrong, Locksmith Animation’s maiden project (slated for a 2021 release). Vine, who was born in Curepipe, Mauritius, says he loved Aardman’s shorts growing up, but his biggest influences were French comic books and British classics by Raymond Briggs and Roald Dahl. After studying theater design in London, he found himself building sets and props for companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“Through prop work I found my way to work on Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a set dresser,” he recalls. “On that movie, the dressers would all watch the previous day’s rushes in dailies, and I realized the animators were having the most fun. I started bugging them for tips and took old characters home to teach myself. I was hooked. I even got some shots in the film. They were only rabbits, but hey!”
He also directed episodes of Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep series and worked as a storyboard artist on The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. His upcoming movie Ron’s Gone Wrong is set in a world where walking, talking, digitally connected “bots” have become children’s best friends, and tells the story of an 12-year-old boy who finds that his robot buddy Ron doesn’t quite work.
“I love working with performance: whether it’s with an actor, an animator, a story artist,” notes the 43-year-old helmer. “I love the energy that erupts when we get excited about an idea … And I love working with design. Lots to love. The challenge is the volume of decisions that have to be tracked throughout the whole film. We’re working all over the film at all times so it can be challenging to hold it all in place.”
His take on the state of animation worldwide? “I’m delighted that more creators are being backed on streaming platforms, and that animation tools are becoming so much more accessible. My nine-year-old has just started animating in Procreate, which I love!”
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