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!