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Interview Today's Date:

A Dream Come True, and On Display, Too:
An Interview with Peter Dodd, Animator on Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Peter Dodd at work. Screaming fans lurk just out of sight.
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.

With 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.

Using 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 from interviewers.

We 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.

Fanboy Planet: 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 productions?

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.

Don't throw bananas.
Fanboy Planet: What's it feel like to be part of the Comic-Con display for The Corpse Bride?

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.

Myself included.

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.

Two seconds a day ...of genius.
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.

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.

Now 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.

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Derek McCaw

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