CE: How far has your work on "Central Park Tale" progressed? Who will be doing the production?
DJ: We are still in the early stages. We've had some interest from various parties but everyone wants to get a better sense of the visual tone of the project. So we are currently developing a "proof of concept" teaser with Mikros Image in Paris. The idea is that in addition to the great script that Jacqui wrote, we could give potential investors, distributors and studios a more accurate idea of how the film will look and feel. Mikros Image is the perfect studio to partner with. They won an Oscar in the "Best Animated Short Film" category for "Logorama", which also was not afraid to be bold. They are currently in production on their first feature. So by the time we are ready, we will be able to leverage their experience with regards to producing a complex film.
CE: Will you mo-cap the choreography, or how will you create the dance sequences?
DJ: So much of the Hip Hop culture is expressed through dance, so it is extremely important that we construct the entire story around it. Dance is at the core of our story. I am really keen to use a top choreographer to help us design dance battles and routines that are not only true to the Hip Hop culture, but will also push the boundaries in terms of what has been done so far, in that genre. The beauty of animation is that we can do anything. But that is also its biggest potential pitfall. The fact that you can, doesn't necessarily mean that you should! This, in my opinion, is why so many films feature animation that looks so unreal. The key question to remember is, "how does it serve the story?".
Our choice to metaphorically swap our world with that of the squirrels is very deliberate. Squirrels are some of the most nimble creatures out there. They seem to defy the laws of gravity by scaling up and down trees, leaping across great gaps and running on wires. They were the perfect protagonists for our story. Imagine how crazy their dance numbers would be if we combined Hip Hop classic moves with Martial Arts and elements of Parkour.
In addition, the camera assumes the squirrels point of view, and audiences will be taken on a ride through New York unlike any they have ever experienced before. I believe in using the right technique for the right result.
For "Happy Feet", for example, we made extensive use of motion capture, which is still a much debated and controversial technique in the world of animation. When "Happy Feet" won the Oscar for "Best Animated Feature", beating Pixar's "Cars", the majority of people never even realized that it was a motion capture film. But it wasn't just motion capture. It was also animated because we used the technology as a tool to enable our director to be able to create these gigantic and complex dance numbers by complementing the motion capture with lots of key frame animation. We carefully engineered a style of animation that would be unique to the project. Without that tool, it would have either been a much more modest, or a far more expensive film. Ultimately that technique was the right choice for the creative needs of that project, which is what matters. The tools are not the end result, the story and how it is told is!
"Central Park Tale" will probably also benefit from that technique, but likewise it will require a lot more than could be "captured" from a human dancer. We will choreograph every single dance routine as far as physics allow, and use all these tools and the live action references to craft the most compelling animation possible. I am really excited because we have the support and endorsement of Jamal Sims, one of the most sought after choreographers. I know that the dance component of the film will be amazing.
This is also why we are doing a campaign on Kickstarter. Mikros will produce the animation and final images, but I am really keen to involve Jamal right away, so that the dance elements of the teaser are as close to what will be in the film, as we can get. We are trying to raise the budget that will allow us to involve him immediately. I believe it is an essential step to be able to successfully impress potential investors. From there the sky is the limit.
CE: Thank you, Daniel. This is a terrific project and we would like to ask our readers to check out "Central Park Tale" on Kickstarter to help raise funds to get the teaser trailer for the film produced: