Donnachada Daly is one of Ireland's most successful film animators. He worked for Sullivan Bluth on 'An American Tale' and 'All Dog's Go To Heaven' before moving to Warner Brothers' Studios where his projects included 'Space Jam'. Currently a Directing Animator at PDI/Dreamworks, he worked on last year's 'Antz'. His most recent project is 'Shrek', in which a grumpy ogre and a garrulous donkey set out to save the princess. He talks to Sinéad Gleeson about his animation heroes and working with Mike Myers.
Sinéad Gleeson: How did you get into animation?Donnachada Daly: I always wanted to do it since I was a kid. When I looked at cartoons on TV, I loved looking at the animated images and it looked like so much fun. I started copying characters and drawing lots of my own little weird ones. The year before Sullivan Bluth [large animation company] came to Ireland I checked out possible courses in colleges and of course, there weren't any. When Sullivan Bluth arrived, I applied and managed to land a job there, thankfully.
SG: When you were growing up did people like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and the Disney animators influence you?DD: Chuck Jones was always a huge influence and the Disney stuff was beautiful, it looked fabulous, but what I also really liked was the humour. Visual and comic are two very different styles but I hope, with my animation, that I've managed to include a bit of both.
SG: Things have changed a lot since those early days of animation. Now computers are an integral part of the process. How much do you think they contribute to the creative process? Would you rather still be using storyboards?DD: For me, it's kind of like the old process never left. When I have to plan out a scene I still do sketches to plan out what I want to do in the animation. So I do all my drawings before I even touch the computer. It's much easier to do certain things in computer animation, but elements of traditional animation can be handier for some aspects of my work.
SG: How do you feel about the process of Motion Capture? Obviously it's hugely effective, but is it too time-consuming?DD: Motion Capture is actually an easier form of animation because you're getting an actor with his motion points connected to a computer and you film him doing the performance of a character. It can work, but there's a lot of cleaning-up to do with stuff afterwards and personally I don't like working with it. I'm more into the traditional way of just doing things by hand.
SG: Did you get all the actors together for the actual recording?DD: We were lucky to have Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow involved in 'Shrek'. The characters were recorded one by one and some of the actors didn’t actually meet each other until after the production was finished. Being an animated film, every single frame has to be very carefully planned out so when you have character actors doing their work separately, we're able to edit their performance.
SG: Does the choice of voice actor in any influence the look of the character?DD: I'm sure Mike Myers wouldn't be impressed with that! The character designs are basically what the designers want the characters to look like in the film. We do put their performance into the characters that we have designed, so if the audience can see some of their performance through our characters, then we've done a good job.
SG: How long does a project like this take from start to finish?DD: It does take a very long time, and to do the actual work itself takes about two years. There are also a lot of people working on pre-development stuff, starting off with the seed of an idea. I've been involved with 'Shrek' for three years in total, one year in development, two years working on the animation.
SG: Have you any future projects lined up?DD: Right now I'm discussing various projects, there are lots of ideas floating around so I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to do next but it's all part of the pre-development process. Dreamworks decide what films we go with and all of them are usually really cool and really funny - so I'm delighted to be working on any of them!
'Shrek' opens at cinemas nationwide on 29 June 2001.