TREASURE PLANET - Q&A with producer ROY CONLI
Tell us about the casting process for animation?
It's a major aspect early on in production because you never animate until you have voice. So voice becomes very important. Also you never lock your character design until you have voice because the voice has to look as if it is coming out of the character. Our casting director Ruth Lambert set up a whole series of casting auditions in New York, Los Angeles and London. Sometimes as you are developing the script you find there is a voice in your mind as you are writing the character. From day one we pretty much knew that we wanted Emma Thompson for Captain Amelia, it just made sense. Also David Hyde Pearce - we could hear it as it was written on the page. But we didn't have a solid idea who Silver could be. It was almost as if the character was taking over and we had to go find who it was. We searched quite a bit and eventually we met with Brian Murray and as soon as you heard that voice you knew that had to be our Silver. The same thing with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, we didn't know where we could find a 15 year old with the range of angst and warmth. It was about seven months before Joe walked into an audition and that was it.
The voice work goes on as the animation takes place?
You continue to record through the process. We might record someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brian Murray about 12 times through a three-year period. Unlike live action where you have a six-week shooting schedule this is a year and a half shooting schedule. You can always go back and adjust. The language in this film is good because we paid a lot of attention to that through the process. We had such a strong storyline with this relationship between Jim and Silver and knew we could really focus on the language of the text.
Casting a stage actor for the role suggests that you had spread your net for Silver very wide?
Ron and John are tireless in ensuring that the voice that they get is the one that is right. You list a bunch of stars that you might be interested in but with this one there wasn't really anyone that made you say "bingo!" We needed to find a voice that was so unique. And theatre performers make great voices for animation because they have so much control of that instrument. That's why New York and London are really important places for us to audition. With live action some of the great actors are understated. I don't think Robert De Niro would make a great animation voice but he's a brilliant actor. Having worked with Ron and John I find them inspiring and infuriating because they are so passionate and thorough about making sure that their choice is right. It's important for them and for me to structure the time in production for them to see as many options as they can because I think they are the best animation directors in the world. They have a great visual sense and a great storytelling sense and what more do you want!
Do you work very closely with the countries that dub the voices into different languages?
Fortunately there is department, Disney Character Voices, that head up the translation of the films. It would be very difficult for us as these films are translated into 34 languages. I keep an eye on France because I speak a little French. However I trust implicitly this department to find the talent. I am in wonderment at these guys because they do an amazingly huge job. It's mind-boggling.
There is all sort of new technology in animation but does the average viewer care how animation is done?
I think people do care what it looks like. They want it to be inviting and enchanting and enticing. But it is always the emotional core of these films that draws the audience. Think of any genre, from science fiction to romantic comedy, it never has to do with the science fiction it never has to do with the romantic comedy; it always has to do with the heart. And whatever that heart is, if you can find an artistic medium that helps you to achieve it, you have succeeded.
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