Abraham Lincoln Re-Animated – Nimit Malavia and Matt Whelan discuss their short film The Great Calamity
Hello All. Kirk, aka Movie Junkie TO, here again with another interview. This time with Nimit and Matt, two of the guys behind the new animated short/motion graphic novel The Great Calamity. The short film is from the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter DVD/Blu-Ray out this week from 20th Century Fox. Nimit is the Key Concept Artist/Illustrator and Matthew is the Animation Director. At the time of the interview recording I had not been able to see the film, but I have been able to catch up with it now and can say the animation is fantastic. Enjoy!
Movie Junkie (MJ) – Hey guys, glad we could get to talk today. So how did you guys end up on this project?
Nimit Malavia (NM) – Back in September 2011 I was contacted by our director, Javier Soto, and asked if I would be interested in designing some concept designs and environments for this animated short. He had seen a piece of my work online and reached out to get in touch with me to ask if I had any interest. I was very interested by what I heard and that was how I got involved.
Matthew Whelan (MW) – I was contacted in January 2012 through House of Cool studios where I work, and got involved on the tech side. The script was already fully formed and Nimit had a direct style in terms of what we were trying to achieve.
MJ – So what is the concept/story behind your motion graphic novel?
NW – Well the film could be more accurately described as an animated short. Fox is going with a motion graphic term but animated short applies just as well. It’s an elaboration on the novel and tells the story of younger Abe when he still a Congressman. He was building up to the main events of the film and still hunting lower level vamps. In our story we focus on his relationship with Edgar Allan Poe and a discussion they have on the origin of vampires in America.
MJ – Great, that’s aspect of the novel that the film doesn’t really address at all. It seems like it’s ripe with opportunity.
MW – Javier was really excited to expand that part of the story and Poe is such an interesting character that it seemed like an obvious fit.
MJ – Great! So what style of animation have you guys chosen to utilize? Is it hand drawn or more CG based?
MW – That was one of the big challenges from our end. Javier wanted everything to look 2D. But the thing about the 2D, and one of the reason’s I’m shy about calling it a motion graphic/animated graphic novel, is that historically these are done with moving drawings. We pushed hard for everything to be in 3D so even when there are paintings in the film we mapped them on the geometry and all of the characters have Nimit’s drawings over top. We actually had Nimit fly down from Ottawa to work on this with us and had him drawing right on the computer to really push his 2D style even though it’s a 3D piece. I think you’ll see if you pick up the Blu-Ray on Oct 23rd that any individual frame in the short hopefully looks more like a drawing that a standard 3D animated character.
MJ– So then how long were you down there working with them, Nimit?
NM – I was down for about 4 or 5 days working in the studio and learning the technology. Matt was showing me exactly what they were doing and what things they needed my touch on. I also followed up with some work from my home studio and shared in the back and forth on any additional designs.
MJ – So was the script a collaborative effort?
NM – It was all written by Javier Soto. Javier wrote a great treatment and it came fully formed to me as it had gone to Matt. When we were developing the concepts and characters, Javier sent me the script and I read it over. It was really well written and the characters really came through so it made my job finding the look really easy.
MJ – Were you guys presented with any test footage from the film for reference?
MW – Javier actually went down and recorded with Benjamin and made sure to record all the takes needed for our piece. So we had that reference of seeing him actually performing parts from our script.
NM– And on my end, Javier provided me with a lot of production still and shots of all the different characters from the movie. The main thing was that he was emphasizing that he wanted us to make this our own so he provided all the reference and sort of gave an idea of the world the short would live in. It not exactly the same as the film’s and it’s not exactly close to the real Abraham looked like, but it exists somewhere in between the two.
MJ – That sounds fun. Thanks a lot for sitting down with me today guys, tell me what you guys have coming up next?
NM – I have a few projects coming up, mostly graphic novels, and I do a lot of gallery shows throughout the US. I have a few lined up in San Francisco, and a few more I can’t talk about right now, but that and some freelance illustration.
MW – For me what’s coming out next is Silent Hill: Revelations which I CG supervised on and moving forward I am working on more commercials.
MJ – Thanks again guys.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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