Dream Come True, and On Display, Too:
An Interview with Peter Dodd, Animator on
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
In order to catch our attention at Comic-Con, you have to
be doing something really unique. Gentle Giant Studios,
in conjunction with Warner Brothers, had the best display
of all at Comic-Con 2005: recreating the animation of a
scene from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.
Dodd at work. Screaming fans lurk just out of sight.
the release last week of the film on DVD, and its nomination
for Best Animated Feature the same day, the time is right
to finally transcribe our conversation with the animator
who worked tirelessly to delight convention goers with a
sort of sideways sneak preview last August.
seventeen actual figures from the film, Peter Dodd painstakingly
moved and shot seconds of footage on a recreation of the
church set. Occasionally he would stop and let passers-by
see the fruits of his labor on a Macintosh screen while
he grabbed a glass of water or perhaps put up with questions
had some really cool shots of Peter at work, but unfortunately
lost them all in that zombie attack last October. Luckily,
Peter documented his trip a bit, and posted these pictures
on his own
site, which will provide a handy follow-up.
Tell me a little bit about your background…
Peter Dodd: Well, I started making
short films sort of in my cellar, with wire armatures and
Super 8 cameras and stuff. Then I got a break in a studio.
I just kept hassling studios until I got a break working
on a training on the job kind of thing, with Cosgrove Hall
Films (Dangermouse, Count Duckula) in Manchester.
They don't do this anymore, but they used
to train you for ten weeks and then you'd go straight into
production on a series. I just worked on series then did
short films and a few commercials and then I got called
up to do this.
Fanboy Planet: So this is your
first full-length feature film work?
Peter Dodd: It is. It's been amazing.
Fanboy Planet: And you're doing
it for Tim Burton, so what's it like working on one of his
Peter Dodd: It's fantastic, because
the whole reason I got into it was The Nightmare Before
Christmas, you know? It's like a dream come true, basically,
because I never thought they would - what with CG and all
- ever do another Nightmare-like film. For me it's
been incredible. Totally.
Fanboy Planet: What's it feel
like to be part of the Comic-Con display for The Corpse
Peter Dodd: It's good. I feel a
bit like people are going to throw bananas at me. But it's
brilliant. It's really really good.
It's really nice to be so proud of the
stuff that we've done. Feel the enthusiasm. People obviously
are really as into it as we were on the movie. It's brilliant.
I can't describe it.
Fanboy Planet: What kind of reaction
have you been getting from the crowd?
Peter Dodd: Overwhelmingly positive.
I mean, people are so into it. People are blown away.
I think there's a huge fanbase on Nightmare
that have been waiting for this film for a long long long
long time. Finally, they're getting it.
Fanboy Planet: What was the best
part about working on Corpse Bride?
Peter Dodd: The most enjoyable thing
about it? That it's everyone that's best in the industry.
It's actually quite a small industry, a small group of people
that do this. And we got to meet a whole bunch of new people.
It's all the best people, and they've been
taken from all over the place. Like this Canadian guy, American
guys, British…me myself I'm Danish but I live in Britain…people
from all over the world. Guys from Australia came over.
The best people in the industry, and you
have time to do the best work you possibly can do. Which
is why it looks the way it looks.
When you're on a series, you do between
ten and twelve seconds of animation a day per animator.
On this, we're doing two. So we can really take our time
and do those things right. Two seconds of footage per day
is what we aim for.
a day ...of genius.
Sometimes you do more. If you're just doing
a simple close-up, you do more. If you're doing a crowd
shot, you do a lot less.
Fanboy Planet: Does the digital
camera help you with that at all?
Peter Dodd: Oh, yeah. Because you
can get in lots of places with a digital camera that you
can't with a huge Mitchell 35 millimeter chunk of iron that
we used to use.
It's also helped rushes wise, because half
an hour after we finish a shot, it's gone through data wrangling
and we can see it projected. That helps a lot in the work
flow of things. Before you'd have to wait overnight from
the lab, before you could strike a set, before anyone knew
it was finished. Maybe you could take the set down and put
up a new set and get going.
you get approval within a half an hour and off we go. It
doesn't make it really fast, because nothing's fast, but
it helps a lot. And it's cheaper.