Emru Townsend: This is one of those things that's kind of unclear, and I suppose it's unclear because every studio is going to do this differently, but say, when this is all starting up with TaleSpin and Gummi Bears, how much of it was taken care of on the American side as opposed to the Japanese side? I presume that of course the storyboards are going to be done on the American side, a lot of your preproduction work is, but where is the line drawn?
Catherine Winder: Well, it got a little confusing, because the American side was handled in such a way that they did the storyboard, and the color key, and all the models and designs and sheets, and they'd ship them over to Japan. And they felt that creatively, from their perspective, that was enough. The Japanese, on the other hand, rather than getting into production, sometimes they created more keys, and drawings, and designs, and then they would subcontract to somebody else. And that was not the intention of the Americans, they just wanted them to get right into animation. So they kind of combined efforts creatively, and they both did both parts of the process. Even though the initial creative vision came from the producer in the United States.
Is that the norm today, or at least in your experience now?
Yeah, that's usually how it's handled. Certain studios I'm aware of are working at letting some of the Asian studios do some of the preproduction elements. I mean, the show that I'm working on right now, I'm having character designs done by a Japanese artist that I know of, because this particular show is incredibly difficult to animate, the characters are very, very complex. And this artist is going to work with a studio I'm working with, and I want to make sure that we're all in sync, that these characters are not too difficult, and they're not going to come back to me and say, "Look, Catherine, we can't animate this stuff, you've got to redo these designs." I want to have their input from the very beginning, so we're on the same team.
Yeah, because Spawn has all those lovely complicated chains, and that big billowing cape.
The cape is what is really difficult, and defining what that cape is, and those chains too, yeah, we're really going to simplify and not use the chains so much. You'll more hear the chains, we're working all that out right now.
With retakes, how complicated can those get? In some cases, would it be a matter of redoing an entire scene, or...
I've heard of entire shows being redone.
Yeah. The problem with retakes, and redoing scenes, is that it gets very complicated. You've got creative retakes and technical retakes. Technical retakes are retakes where the studio overseas have just not followed the instructions to a T, and therefore a producer/director on this end can call a retake. A creative retake is when the director decides, I want him to walk backwards instead of forwards, and starts changing things, so it's not the fault of the studio overseas. But often this gets very hazy on whose responsibility the retakes should be, and if it's really the responsibility of the director, who's changed his mind, it gets messy because the studio wants compensation for that, and rightly so. So the tighter the package, the clearer the vision of the director from the initial studio who's creating the preproduction package, the better your film's ultimately going to be, because there's no grey areas. The artists overseas, the animators or the directors overseas are not going to be confused. Often they're unclear, so they'll make a decision--and they should probably communicate with the director domestically, but they don't always do that, so they'll do their interpretation of something, and then it gets kind of confusing on whose responsibility that is. I believe it's really the responsibility of the preproduction studio to give absolutely every bit of information possible, so that there is no confusion, and that it's really a clear-cut blueprint for your overseas studio to follow, and produce the best film.
It seems like the most logical choice. I mean, you're dealing with sending information for something that's very precise halfway around the world.
But I've dealt with a lot of people that don't always see it that way. They'll often, rather than looking in their own backyard and checking their package, blame the overseas studio rather than taking the responsibility. And really the studios overseas are experts at following instructions. So it's up to you to give them the most clear-cut instructions possible.
How long did you stay at Disney?
Just under two years. Then I worked in Vancouver, and did a study for the British Columbian Motion Picture Association on developing the animation industry in Canada. And then I got a call from Hanna-Barbera, who had a feature film, Once Upon a Forest, over in Taiwan that was in trouble. So I went over as the international production manager, and worked very closely with the domestic production manager on tracking where all the scenes were, scenes were hidden on shelves, and all sorts of places, and they were all over the world on this production. Between the two of us, we were able to figure it all out and get the production done on time.